Friday, October 03, 2014


My photography class is currently working on using flash in order to simulate natural light. In every other topic that we've covered, I've been way on board. Manual setting? Awesome! Night photography? Sweet! Action photography? Bonus!

So far, in flash class, I'm all...Meh. So. Stinking. Frustrating. We had a field trip with models this week, and I got a couple of nice photographs, but most of them just screamed "FLASH" at me. I'm doing the things - I'm making the adjustments - I understand the physics. I just can't seem to get a photo that makes my heart sing.

Yesterday, I borrowed Joshua for a quick session in the garage to see if I could improve any. First, I took a photo of him just using the light that was coming in through the garage door. Why does my garage have such lovely light? Honestly - in the mornings, it's just a gorgeous place to photograph people. I need to install some curtains to hide all the bikes and junk so it could be an official photography studio. This is what I ended up with...


See what I mean? Gorgeous light. It's soft and even. It fills in his eye sockets and lights up those aqua eyes perfectly. I love the reflection of the sky in his eyes. I love how it evens out his skin tone and makes his freckles completely adorable. I love this photo.

Happy Dance.

Now - flash forward (see what I did there) a few minutes. I had the flash angled away and bouncing off a card, hoping that would soften its effects. I had it turned way down and barely even flashing. I changed a few settings on the camera to lessen the impact. and still...



Ugh. I hate what it does to his eyes - that little pinprick of light just off-center in the pupil. The light is harsh and unforgiving. I don't like the fact that the inside of his nostrils are illuminated. (Is that a weird thing to notice?) In short - I don't like it one little bit.

I really don't understand why I'm struggling so much with it. It may be a mental block, because I used flash so much in the past, in all the wrong ways, and now I can't wrap my head around the fact that it can be lovely and, at times, necessary.

All I can do is press on. Keep practicing. Not give up. I WILL figure this out.

And I'll let you know when I do...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



I love this photo of Joshua, mainly because he looks so serious, which is completely in contrast with how goofy he really is.

Speaking of contrast, what do you think of the contrast between his neat, semi-preppy clothes and the gritty, urban funky wall behind him? I like the contrast, but I had some feedback from a trusted source that called it into question. I'd love some additional feedback from anyone who'd like to step up and offer it.

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014



I've finally found a plant I can grow.

It thrives on neglect and a lack of water.

Kind of like my children.

Have a peace-filled day.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Cherubic Cacophony

Joshua at one

An open letter to the mom in Cracker Barrel on Sunday:

Dear Mom at the table next to us,

I understand. I've been there. It seems only yesterday that my gangly 13 year old was a cherubic toddler with white-blonde hair and big blue eyes. I'm not trying to call you out or shame you. I'm here to help.

Because here's the thing. Your child? The adorable, mop-topped little boy that was sitting three feet away from my right ear? He was amazingly, unabashedly, incorrigibly and flagrantly out of control.

I get it. He's maybe two years old. Two year olds are like tiny tornadoes of wanton destruction, if left unchecked. I remember. But the key phrase in that sentence is "if left unchecked." It's not impossible. I promise that you can go out to eat with your family and friends, WITH the unruly one, enjoy yourself, and not be responsible for the burst eardrums and shattered patience of the rest of the diners in the restaurant. How do I know this?

Because I did it. I had one child who seemed innately polite and well-mannered in public. He was easy. But the other one? The one who painted his body in oatmeal every morning? He was a tornado waiting to happen. Please, please, please, please let me help you. It's all about planning ahead and heading off triggers.

  • You arrived at the restaurant and were seated. You placed said toddler on the end so that only you could deal with his toddlerness. That's a mistake. 
    • Unruly children should be placed between two attentive adults so that one of you can eat while the other staves off attack. It's a quality defensive technique. Trust me.
  • It seemed that you brought along part of a hard toy train to entertain your darling. Kudos for thinking of entertainment - that's awesome. However, a hard plastic and metal object that can be used as a projectile may not be your best bet. I'm fairly sure that workmen's compensation doesn't cover the blow to the head that the server took from said train. 
    • I found that softer, more malleable toys were less likely to result in legal action.
  • I was saddened to watch you hand your precious angel the knife and fork from the rolled up napkin. While your child was perhaps old enough to handle eating utensils, the fact that he took them to be drum sticks was rather unfortunate. I did appreciate the fact that he was trying to belt out a melody along with his percussion accompaniment, but both the pitch and decibel level were so incredibly high that it did preclude any conversation at my own table. I had sort of hoped that when my right ear started bleeding, you might have put a stop to his concert, but unfortunately it only ended when he chucked the utensils into the path of another server. 
    • No percussion in restaurants. Teach your children to use indoor voices. It's the only option that works. Practice it. Live it. Embrace it. Everyone benefits from it.
  •  It was around 10 am when all this took place. I don't know whether or not you had fed the child anything before hand, but sometimes acting out is just a result of being hangry. This is easy to deal with. 
    • I never left my house without a container of Cheerios and a sippy cup of water or juice. Cheerios are like baby crack. They are food, entertainment, learning tools. There's almost nothing a handful of Cheerios can't cure. If your sweet patoo throws them at the wait staff - no harm done! They don't hurt! It's a win-win.
  • Speaking of purses - you're the mother of a toddler. You don't get to carry a purse. You carry an industrial-strength bag of monstrous proportion. Inside that bag are all the tools of your trade. The aforementioned Cheerios, a rotation of soft plastic toys, a couple of board books. And for the love of all things holy, paper and crayons. Most restaurants provide them, but you never know when they will be out. 
    • Here's the thing about paper and crayons. They're quiet. If baby wants to be a drummer - crayons are great drumsticks - quiet! Plus, if he's drumming on the paper, he's creating art at the same time. Another win-win.
  • I was thrilled to see that you did a couple of great things:
    • You didn't let junior out of his high chair. Brilliant - the entire Cracker Barrel staff and patronage thanks you. I can't begin to tell you how obnoxious it is when parents let their children do laps around the tables to burn off energy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    • You didn't immediately pull out some form of electronic device to pacify the child. It did come out eventually, and everyone sighed a little at the quiet, but it wasn't your first option, and I completely support you in that. Your child CAN learn to sit a table and be a darling without electronic devices, but you do have to be strong. 
  • Here's my last bit of wisdom. Restaurant behavior (or any public behavior) must be modeled at home. If you aren't sitting down at a table and expecting all your children, regardless of age, to be learning how to act at the dinner table, no amount of diversion is going to work for your sweetie in public. I promise. 
    • Have dinner together as a family. Model appropriate behavior. Point out times when your children are doing excellently. Gently correct inappropriate behaviors.
    • Even though my kids are 14 and 13, we still do this. Napkin in lap, non-eating hand in lap, sitting up straight, chewing with your mouth closed. Why do we still work on this? Because it is important. When they start dating, their dates will appreciate it. When they go out to eat with a potential employer, they will take note of their manners. When they have children, they'll need to model it.
    • It's your job, mom. Please don't forget it. Your job is not to make your wee precious toddler happy all the time. Your job is to teach that child how to grow up and be a functioning human being.
Thanks for hearing me out. You've got the most difficult and rewarding job on the planet, but you're amazing and awesome.

I know you can do this.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Under the Pier

Under the Pier

I'm not sure what I find so endlessly fascinating about the way waves interact with a rickety old pier. 

But I do. Just look at it. You have to believe when it was built, the pier was as straight as an arrow - perfectly perpendicular to the beach. 

Now - it meanders out into the surf, constantly shifted by the power of the Atlantic Ocean.

But it still stands there - defiantly, foolishly, stubbornly.


Friday, August 15, 2014


Over the Dune

When Derek started Kindergarten, we decided to join a homeschooling cooperative that met three half days per week. Tuesdays and Fridays were for working at home. We loved the idea of it - that he would experience a classroom setting, but we would still be able to retain our flexible schedules and oversee his and Joshua's learning.

After three years of being there, we realized that flexibility was more important to our family than classroom sitting, and we started on our full-time, independent homeschooling path. And lo, it was good.

We have certainly had our ups and downs along the way. But, we found our groove - we made it work. It was perfect for the two years we lived in DC. It's been wonderful for the past three years of building on the boys' tennis foundations.

But this week we started down a new path. Derek set off to join the rank and file of the local public high school. 

Mah baybee's a FRESHMAN, y'all.

Joshua is still at home this year - one last year of middle school for him before he runs off to join the circus starts high school himself. One last year for me to torment him constantly and without provocation.

Oh, who am I kidding. He provokes me hourly.

This is also my last week of having a child who isn't a teen, yet. Joshua will be 13 next Friday - his age finally matching his attitude. I'll be the mother of two teen boys. 

And I'm only 19, myself. 

It's a miracle, yo. Probably has something to do with a rip in the space-time continuum or something. I can't possibly be old enough to have two teen boys. 

Shut up. All of you. I am not.

Anyway - our paths are diverging and remerging and changing and evolving these days. Who knows where they'll end up? 

It sure is fun watching it all happen, though. I may not be old enough to have them, but I sure am thankful that I do. They make growing older so much more interesting than I ever thought it would be.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Ocracoke Silver Lake

It's places like this that set my heart adrift. I look at the diamonds of light reflected off the silvery water and wonder what it would be like.
What would it be like to live in a town of 900 people, where the pace moves at something resembling the torpid crawl of a tortoise in winter? What would it be like to know every single permanent resident and all their dirty laundry? What would it be like to ride a bike, barefoot, to the local grocer and discover that the milk delivery hadn't been made that day because the ferry-boat was fogged in and couldn't run.
Would I find it liberating or suffocating? I rail against the crowds and the traffic and the noise and the rapid tempo of our days, here. I mourn that I have only brief snippets of time to spend in meaningful discussion with the people who I love. Is moving to an island accessible only by ferry the solution to that, or just a case of the sea oats being greener on the other side of the dune?
Probably, I just need to take the lessons of small town, isolated islands back with me into my everyday life in the bustling real world.
  • Slow down.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Say hello to neighbors.
  • Smile at the local cat.
  • Sit outside for meals when the weather allows.
  • Try a local brew.
  • Learn to live without and to patiently wait.
  • Spend some time watching birds fly by. 
  • Look for the light.
Love each other.
Give peace.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


ISS 3x25s

That's the International Space Station, orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour, which is approximately the same speed as our summer is already traveling.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Eyes on the Prize

Derek Eye on Ball

It's so easy to get caught up in the here and now with regard to junior tennis. It's so easy to get frustrated and discouraged when your children are so close, so capable, so darned good at it, but they still miss out on their short term goals. We've seen it and experienced it over and over again, and there are days that we wonder how on earth these boys press on.

But they do. They play their guts out and sometimes come up short. They walk off the court in tears and hating the game and never going to play again and then ten minutes later ask when they can play again. They are one billion times stronger than I am.

And so we leave the courts and we cry it out and we talk about the match later when everyone is calm and we look for the positives to carry out of the experience. It's so easy to focus on the negatives - so easy to pick those out, for some reason. Identifying the negatives is important, sure, but the only way to build and to grow is to find what went well, and capitalize on those things.

We are fortunate enough to have coaches who care - who are willing to travel nearly three hours on their own time to watch them play. What a blessing. We are also fortunate enough to have friends on the same journey - farther down the same road - who can talk us down and help us see reality. What a blessing, indeed. 

One of those tennis moms wrote this on my Facebook wall over the weekend, "Junior tennis is unlike any other sport. Watching these kids struggle with their emotions while having to fight through matches with no support from a coach or parent is so hard. I can't help but think it will create self-motivated adults who can think for themselves."

Joshua Serve

She's right. My heart breaks while I watch them, some days. It splinters into tiny shards of soul-piercing glass to see them fight so hard and end up just a few points away from a win. It shatters to see them unable to break through an opponent's game. 

But somehow, at the same time, my heart swells with overwhelming pride to watch how hard they try - how alien it is for them to give up, even the the face of ridiculous odds. It soars to watch them hold their heads high, take a deep breath, and step back up to the line to serve against a player who is leagues ahead of them.

I don't know where this journey will take them. I don't know how long they'll play competitive tennis. I don't know if they'll peak in high school and just play for fun afterwards, or if they'll end up playing college tennis. We've got a lot of time before that plays out.

But I do know that the lessons they've learned through the process are priceless, regardless of how far they go. The lessons of perseverance and self-reliance - the lessons of mental toughness - the lessons of conflict management on a personal level - the lessons of pushing yourself farther than you ever believed you could go - those are the lessons that create success in any endeavor, and I'm so proud to watch them learn them.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday

On the left: Joshua at the end of his K-4 year. On the right: Joshua at the end of his 7th grade year. 

Still has those sparkling blue-green eyes, adorable cheeks and the cutest little half-a-dimple ever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Oh, Brother


It's such fun to watch them have fun.

We are in our last weeks of school for the year, our last weeks of having both of them home for school. Derek's sprouting wings and getting ready to start the process of flying the coop, while Joshua has another year at home with me.

My plan for the summer is to soak up as much time with them together as I possibly can, knowing that it is precious and fleeting. I have a feeling that Joshua and I will be a bit rudderless come August. 

We've done online school for the past year and a half, and have had mixed feelings about it, so when Joshua and I talked about what to do for his eighth grade year, he told me that he'd rather go back to me teaching him, so that he could actually learn a lot of stuff (his words, not mine.) 

I only beamed for 14 hours straight.

Now, my afternoons have been full of course catalogs and curriculum reviews - it's been a little while since I pieced together a year of lessons, but I'm completely looking forward to doing so. 

It's strange. I've never had Joshua at home by himself, really. I had Derek for 20 months - just the two of us, but ever since Joshua came along, the two of them have been tied together. When Derek started Kindergarten, Joshua started K-4 and went right along with him. I'm looking forward to some time spent with my baby, even though he threatens to shoot up past me in height, and I can already borrow his shoes.

In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy watching them interact with each other the way they do. 

Friday, May 09, 2014



My rhododendron bushes positively exploded this week. I was worried that after the bitter winter, I might see very few blooms, but they clearly made it through without issue. Not everything made it, though. My gardenias are gone, I lost a forsythia and one of my crepe myrtles is badly damaged, but recovering.

I feel a bit like the crepe myrtle after this winter. The biting cold and excessive snowfall turned me soft. I played tennis yesterday, in 80 degree heat, and felt like I would pass out. I love heat. I live for heat. Eighty degrees is like paradise for me.

Except yesterday.

Like my crepe myrtle, it's going to take some time to ease into this summer. I'll definitely need to spend some time soaking in the sun, readjusting my body to the heat and humidity that the season brings. Which sounds an awful lot like an excellent excuse to sit by the pool with a good book.

"No, darlings - Mama didn't make supper today. I was acclimating to the weather."

"Oh, I'm sorry you don't have any clean socks. I was acclimating to the weather."

"I couldn't possibly do that thing you want me to do. I am acclimating to the weather."

Yep. Sounds like a plan.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

5 Simple Steps to Great Family Portraits

With a combination of a little patience and a lot of planning, taking your family's portrait should be a breeze. Build a repertoire of basic group poses, like the ones here, and you'll be on your way to a fantastic gallery wall of your own portraits in no time!

Let's get started!

1. Location, location, location. Scout out your yard or local park to find a nice area with open shade that will give you even, diffuse light. Avoid getting hotspots on any of your family members by making sure they are completely in the shade, not in a dappled sunlight area. No one wants a shiny forehead.

In the shot below, we headed out to the backyard and found some really great open shade that evenly lit Dr. SmartyPants and Jasper, but I really didn't like the area in the background. Pay close attention to the background! It can make or break your shot. Use the playback feature on your camera to really evaluate what is going on behind your subject.

   Jasper Smiling

In the next shot, below, I moved my view just a little until the weedy parts of the yard were hidden, and nothing but green grass was showing. It always pays to take a few test shots before you get the whole family involved. Which brings me to point two...

 2. Pre-shoot. Find your most cooperative family member, or members, and place them in your chosen area to set up your exposure and focus. The more you do here, the more efficiently your session will go. Obviously, I chose Dr. SmartyPants - man of infinite patience - for my test subject. Chico did pretty well, too.


3. Arrange the humans. Trust me. If you are including your family pets in the photograph, they need to wander around and sniff all the things while you get your humans in place. This applies to toddlers and pre-schoolers, as well. Get all the non-fidgety people placed, make sure your lighting is perfect, then bring in the wigglers.

4. Shoot fast. There's nothing worse than sitting through a session where the photographer just keeps going and going and going. You've got everything set up already - just take the picture! Use a high burst mode to help you avoid the dreaded blinks of half the crowd - you're bound to get one where everyone is looking at the camera with their eyes open. Just fire off a burst, check your settings, make whatever quick adjustments you need, fire off another burst and call it a day. Trust your pre-work.

Posed Portrait

Once you've done all that, it's time to move on to the last step...

5. Let them goof off. Finish the session by letting everyone loose. Keep the camera firing on continuous drive and tell everyone you're finished. That's when the real family portraits show up!


See what I mean...
  Real Portrait

Alright - your turn! Get out there and grab some great shots of your own family, okay?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Snack Time

Snack Box

I recently signed up to receive ArtSnacks, a subscription service for art supplies. The idea behind it is that you receive a monthly box of art supplies that you might not ordinarily try, so that you branch out and try some new things artistically. It is $20 a month, and based on the first box I received, I'm not sure I'll be subscribing very long.

It's not that there's anything wrong with what I received, but for $20, I'd probably be better served by going down to my local Jerry's Artarama and just randomly picking things off the shelf! I was a little underwhelmed.

But, here's a breakdown of what I received in my first snack box:

  • One Cretacolor Fine Art Graphite 3B pencil. I actually quite like this pencil. I'm much more comfortable drawing with a pencil over a pen, and this one has a really nice feel and deep charcoal color. It's definitely something I'll look for at my local shop.
  • One Kurecolor graphic artist marker in Green Shadow. Meh. I'm not a huge fan of markers and the color is a bit pale and wan. This one probably won't ever get used up. I'll give it a shot in my sketchbook, just to see if I change my mind, but I'm not optimistic.
  • One Touch twin marker in Rose Beige. Again...marker. But I actually like this one okay. It has a nice fine tip that makes a good solid line, and the color is pretty fresh. Would I purchase more? Probably not, but it will get used.
  • One Tombow Eraser. Yeah. Well. It erases things. Yay.
  • One cute little polka dotted bag for art supplies or anything, really. It's nice and compact, lightweight and expandable. It's a keeper.

I'm going to work very hard to incorporate all of the items in my sketchbook this month, but I think the pencil will steal the show. 

I'll give them another month or two, but if I don't get impressed by then, I'll unsubscribe and just make Linda go on a monthly scavenger hung at Jerry's to put together my own ArtSnack!

What have you been creating, lately?

P.S. ArtSnacks has no idea who I am, other than a name on a list of subscribers. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Weather the Storm


Do you ever have the feeling that even though the sun is shining brightly, there's a storm raging?

I do.

We are in this strange transition space between childhood and manhood. It's uncharted territory for me, even though I obviously transitioned from childhood to womanhood at some point. (Some may argue otherwise.) They seem so mature and capable and then, POW!

Instant four year old.

It becomes harder and harder to step back and say, "They're children. They have non-functioning prefrontal cortices," even though I understand the science behind it and know for a fact that my brain was equally delusional about life.

So, some days the storm rages through the sunshine and the lightning and thunder overwhelm us completely and we teeter on the brink of tough parenting calls and spiteful decision making ( electronics until you're 18 for a week!) 

But somehow we manage to batten down the hatches and ride it out. We end up at the end of the day with the light filtering back through and the four of us curled up in bed watching James Bond and unconsciously making sure that everyone is touching at least one other of us. We apologize and reiterate and make sure we all understand that no matter what happens, love is the driving force in this family.

We pray and we hug and we "I love you" each other. We go to sleep knowing that we weathered the storm the best we knew how and nothing was broken or torn apart.

In the morning, the sun shines again.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Dark (K)night

Starry Hump

I had been out for an hour or so this particular evening, testing settings for long exposures of the stars at night, when it occurred to me to include our house. I managed to get set up and ready just as an airplane was passing overhead. This exposure ended up being only just over a minute, but I love the trace the plane leaves behind - each of its blinking lights marked in individual dots.

I hope I'll get an image of long star trails soon, but every evening spent testing is time spent learning!

Don't forget to look up, people!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Saturday Links

Locked Out

I do a lot of reading on photography and art and sketching and all the other things in which I am interested. It occurred to me the other day that if you're reading this blog, you're probably interested in many of the same things I am, so I thought I'd share them with you on Saturdays. I'll try and group them by topic so they don't get all muddled up in the mix...

For this, the first Saturday fully of link love, I'm going to stick with the topic of photography tutorials. I have been taking a photography class over the last few weeks, so these sorts of articles have been my most frequent reads:

If you take photos and you haven't found Digital Photography School, you're really missing out. This site has a ton of tutorials from beginner level to advanced photography skills. They also go in-depth on the technical side of photography, from camera bodies to lenses and everything in-between.

Spend some quality time there - you won't be sorry you did.

Another great, less intimidating site for photo tutorials and information is Click it Up a Notch. It's written more for a casual, amateur photographer in mind - someone who loves to take photos and just wants to take great ones of their family and friends. They start with the very basics of picture taking and work through editing and even have a critique my photo section that always has wonderful information.

Finally, and it is probably cliched, but you just can't get much better than National Geographic when it comes to photography. They have an excellent photo-of-the-day site that isn't exactly a tutorial, but you just can't help but be inspired when you start looking through the wonderful images. The process in getting the images is usually explained, and while it isn't straight-up teaching, it certainly is informative.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Week in Instagram


We started our week in Birmingham, at the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. What a great weekend! If only the rain had held off so we could have seen everything...

The races that we saw were really exciting, though - it was a blast. But tennis waits for no one...

Not to mention, electric guitars and the state standardized tests were calling the boys' names.

It was one of those weeks that fly by before I'm even aware it has started. Too many weeks end that way, these days - the result of growing boys and busy schedules. I'm looking forward to the summer and the slow rhythm of days that it brings.

Aren't you?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

But First...

Let me take a selfie...


These are more garage light photos. The boys weren't home, and I wanted to work on a couple of things, so I had to use my permanent model. Thankfully, I have a remote control and a great deal of patience...


And a better fake smile than Joshua.

Both of these were taken with my 50mm lens at f/2.8, 1/60, ISO 100. I used my Cowboy Studio target to set the exposure and the approximate area where my eyes would be so I could get good focus. I think I should have worn long sleeves - my right arm is distracting me a little, but it was actually raining outside when I took these, so I couldn't back the camera up to get more arm, and I didn't want a too- tightly-cropped head shot either.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Back in the Garage

Joshua Front light

Like the post a couple of days ago, this photo was taken in the open doorway of my garage. The light was stronger on this day, so the catchlights in Joshua's eyes are so sparkly!

I always have a hard time getting Joshua to smile naturally. He tends to keep his lips together, show a little upper gum and wrinkle his chin. That's why you may see a lot of photos of him not smiling at all. I'd rather he just stare menacingly at the camera than look like.

Joshua Fake Smile

Because while he's still adorable in that picture, it's not Joshua. Joshua is a guffaw-er. He's a smiler. He's a funny, happy kid, and that second picture doesn't show that.

So, while he was very patiently posing for me, giving me his fake smile, I started singing.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little...goat,
How I wonder if you...float."

And that's when I found his smile. His real, honest-to-goodness, happy Joshua smile.

Joshua Front light

Ahhhh. That's better.

Do you have a reluctant smiler in front of the camera? Try singing a silly song. Maybe you'll break through his mask!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gardening Style

Truck Planter 2

I wonder if my homeowner's association would let me plant an old, broken-down truck in my yard and use the bed of it as a flower bed?

I'm guessing they won't.

Oh, well. I think this looks amazing anyway. I spotted it at the University of Tennessee Gardens yesterday while I waited for the boys to be finished with their standardized testing. It's one of those places that I have intended to go for a very long time, but somehow it has escaped me. I'm so glad I finally made it there. It's a lovely, peaceful oasis in the middle of a very busy city.


There were lovely pathways that wound through shadowed areas. This one led to a labyrinth surrounded by irises.

Planting Wall

And there were bright, sunny spots to soak up the springtime light. I particularly liked this planting wall - full of succulents and annuals. I really think I need one of these in my yard - I think it will go over better than the broken down truck. I also loved the lavender stain on the wall, fences and planters in this section of the garden. It was a perfect background to all those shades of green and yellow.

Monday, April 28, 2014

You Light Up My Life

Derek Front Lighting

This was taken with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens I rented for a couple of weeks. It's a lens I really (really really) want to purchase, but it's pricey and I thought I should play with it for a while and see if it is practical.

I took this photo of Derek in our garage. He's facing the open doorway with all the soft afternoon indirect light coming in, and the rest of the garage just kind of disappears into the background. I used the lens with the aperture wide open at 2.8, and the focal length set to 70mm, which made that soft, dreamy background like buttah.

Speaking of buttah...


I took this one with the lens wide open as well, but used the 200mm focal length, so the trees in the background just became the perfect foil to Derek's green eyes. Compare this one to the one below, and you can see what the combination of a large aperture and a long focal length have on the background.

OttMaxIsolation70mm I used f 2.8 in this photo, as well, but the lens was zoomed out to 70mm. That's a nicely blurred background, but it doesn't even compare to the 200mm.

I'll definitely have to set Derek up in the garage again, with the lens at 200mm. That just makes a gorgeous portrait! Maybe I can convince Joshua to model for me, too!

When the Lights Come On

Birmingham Cityscape

Everything is a little sparkly and more special at dusk. Even the city of Birmingham, Alabama, looks beautiful when she puts on her jewels.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wave as They Pass By

ISS Clear
41 second exposure

Do you see that faint streak of light up there in the center of the photo? That's the International Space Station, hurtling through space at a speed of about 17,000 mph. It is 230 miles above the earth and is the brightest man-made object in space.

Last night, when I took this photo, we all stood outside and watched it pass. As we craned our necks up at the sky, feet firmly planted on the ground, I wondered what it must be like to be up there, looking down. How surreal to see your planet zooming past like a giant schoolroom globe - day and night and day and night -15 orbits in a 24 hour period.

Do they get used to it? Does it grow to feel commonplace?

I'd like to think that I would spend my six months in space gasping in awe each time I passed a window, but somehow we humans grow easily bored of awesome.

We drive into our garages and enter our homes completely oblivious to the wonder that exists around us. We catch a glimpse of the vastness of space and forget to be amazed. We see a sunrise and rub our eyes and wish we were still in bed asleep.

My mother taught me to name the constellations and marvel at meteor showers. I hope I can manage the same with my children. I certainly intend to try.

122 minute exposure - ISS and star movement

P.S. There are some excellent resources available if you are interested in tracking the ISS or finding what's going on in your part of the night sky - here are a few...

Find out when the ISS will be visible in your part of the world here.

Check out the constellations in real time on your iPhone here. (There are Android apps available, as well, but I don't have an Android phone, so I can't really recommend them.)

Plan your next meteor shower viewing here.

Keep looking up, people.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



I spend a great portion of my days looking at power lines. I find them oddly beautiful, with their soaring towers and sweeping connective curves. I remember going on long car trips with my family and staring out the window at them as we passed by, my eyes swooping down the length of wire and back up again to the next post.

I loved the back country power poles with their weathered wood and classic insulators. I loved watching them change from small to large as we approached the Mississippi River - huge sentinels of power crossing the wide expanse of water.

I'm not sure what that says about me, exactly.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Eyes on the Prize

Joshua FH

I love the intensity and focus in his eyes -- there's just no doubt he's going to make perfect contact with the ball.

I find tennis to be the ultimate metaphor for life...

  • Work hard with focus and determination, but be still and reflect when you have the opportunity.
  • Competitive spirit shouldn't trump fair play. 
  • Be polite, even especially to your opponents. 
  • Breathe through your anger and disappointments.
  • Don't be so hard on yourself. Perfection is unattainable. Mistakes are just growth opportunities.
  • When things aren't going your way, fix your mistakes instead of blaming your opponent.
  • Sometimes the other guy just gets lucky. Sometimes you do.
  • Solve problems as you face them. 
  • There's no substitute for excellent preparation. Play hard. Practice harder.
  • Find a coach that believes in you and can help you reach your goals.
  • At the end of the day, shake hands with your opponent, and wish them luck - even if you lost this one.
  • There's nothing wrong with going somewhere private to cry it out. Passion often ends in tears. 

Hang in there, people. Play it out. Never, ever give up.

Thursday, April 17, 2014



When I was a young girl, I wanted a canopy bed so I could sleep under the magical forest that lived in my head.

I also spent a lot of time in my closet with my dad's flashlight, exploring the depths of uncharted caves, so I probably shouldn't be taken very seriously.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Joshua Portrait

When he was really little, I had a hard time getting a focused photo of him. He was all soft and round and perfectly smooth. There were no defined edges for the autofocus to use.

Not any more. He's all angles and edges and sharply defined lines. He's deep black eyelashes and strong eyebrows. He's intense focus and pale eyes and gorgeous freckles.

On the one hand, it means my photos of him are much better.

On the other hand, it means my baby is growing up way too fast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014



It was a day of sunshine and waterfalls, wildflowers and bird songs, mountain streams and tumbled boulders.