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?