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.