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January 30, 2013

Flicker

I've been feeling inspired lately. Perhaps more than ever in my life. I see something, or hear a word or a musical phrase in my head, and it's like striking a match. There's a little flame of an idea. And I need to write it down before it goes out.

It can be frustrating working a day job when you have all these ideas in your head of things you want to do, pictures you want to take and scenes you want to paint or illustrate, and you just don't have the time. This is what I'm running into nowadays. So many thoughts, so little time. By the time I get home and spend a couple hours with Lily and Sean, make dinner, put the bub to bed...I'm drained. So these ideas, these flickers of light in my brain...they either snuff out, or they become dim, but are still present, or they sit in my notebook, waiting for a day when I can maybe start to chip away. Maybe start to put something of my own out into the world and say "Hey, this is what I'm working on. This is what I plan to do."

It might not happen at the pace I'd like, but these little glimmers are giving me hope and encouragement that someday, maybe soon, there will be time.

For now, this is a flicker of something I'm working on. 


January 28, 2013

Peaceful Weekend

It's important to me that Lily knows that we will have fun, we will go on adventures and have weekends that are so exciting and full of family and friends, but that we will also take the time to slow down and spend quiet time together as a family, which is just as great of an adventure. This weekend was a much needed change of pace. I didn't leave the apartment from the time I got home from work on Friday to when I left for work this morning. We slept in, I cleaned, we played, we napped, I wrote down some ideas for things I'd like to do, we watched movies and junkie tv, and just enjoyed being home and not having any obligations except to spend time together. To me, it was a perfect weekend.




  

  








January 23, 2013

Things I'm Loving :: Etsy Finds

You know what I love? Feeling good. Feeling inspired. That usually comes from daily observations, my little world here in Connecticut, random acts of kindness and my daughter's wide open, gummy mouthed, nose crunched smile. And I like to see what people are creating in the world. Inspiration is like a good disease. We catch it from each other and then let it manifest into its own special form in ourselves. And then, hopefully, it spills over and spreads to others, and they start to feel feverish with ideas.

Here are some things that are putting a smile on my face today.

Narwhal 11oz Mug, $17, The Little Canoe
Red and White and Lovely All Over
Vintage Circus Seal Pillow
Home is the Space Where Our Hearts Meet
I hope these make you feel a little feverish. With inspiration, that is. Not the flu. That would suck. Please stay healthy and wash your hands.

Shannon, out.

January 16, 2013

Lily :: 4 Months



Didn't I just do a 3 month update yesterday? I do believe it was only a short time ago.

Nicknames: Lil, Lovebug, Peanut, Lovey, Pumpkin, Little Miss

So much changes in a month.

You are discovering things at what feels like warp speed. Anything you can get your hands on, you are touching, feeling, tasting and examining.

You love playing on your activity mat on the floor. You get "crazy legs" and kick non-stop until you wear yourself out.




You rolled over for daddy on 1/08/13. He sent me a video at work and I cried.

I think you're going to be an awesome mix of sassy and sweet.

Your eyes are so blue. Big blueberry eyes, just like your great-grampa.





You love to babble, squawk and grunt. I call these your little dinosaur noises. You also squeal in glee. It's the best and cracks up your daddy and I.

One word: drool.

You are taking 50/50 breastmilk and formula. I love nursing you first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It's our special quiet time and you look up at me with those big blueberries and all is right in the world.

You are starting to watch us eat, and I can't wait to start giving you solids. It's going to be so fun to watch you discover food.


You are no longer content to be held reclined in our laps or in your bouncy seat (unless you are wicked sleepy and want to snuggle). You want to be up and looking around. You love standing up and "walking" with our assistance. This kind of scares me that you'll just start walking at 6 months or something. Please slow down. Take your time. We're in no rush. 

You snuggle into our shoulders and necks now when you're sleepy and we're holding you upright against us. It's easier to hold you like this than to cradle you now. You are getting so tall.  

You started daycare this month. We are in our 3rd week of being apart during the day. I wouldn't say it's getting easier, but you are having fun, whether you're at daycare or home with daddy. I love seeing your happy little face when I pick you up or get home. I think of you non-stop throughout the day. I am trying to be ok and happy with how things need to be, but I miss you terribly. The weekends are not long enough.



You love toys now. You pick them up and chew on them, move them around in your hands. Your favorites are your pink bunny (which you sleep with) and a set of colorful plastic rings. It's so fun watching you amuse yourself.

We went home for Christmas and everyone loved getting to spend time with you. We put you in a ridiculous poofy and sparkly dress, and I think going forward you will wear less crazy dresses. Sister is a lover of comfort. We'll save the glitter for art projects.



You were showered with Christmas presents from everyone. Santa and his little helpers were very generous as well. You got clothes, toys, stuffed animals, diapers, blocks, and books. You are one lucky little girl.


New Year's Eve was quiet and peaceful. You fell asleep in my arms around 11pm and when the new year turned over, your daddy and I planted soft kisses on your cheeks and we put you to bed, hopeful for a wonderful year ahead.

On January 9 we celebrated one year since finding out you were going to be a part of our lives. We wanted you so badly, prayed for you, and when we found out, we were filled with so much joy. And now you are here and more wonderful than we could have imagined.


In case I don't tell you every day, it is the best job in the world being your mama.

January 11, 2013

Photography Tips Series 1 :: Let There Be Light

I have never done a post on photography tips, but there is no time like the present! I get comments from family and friends that they would like to take better photos. My goal here is to give tips that anyone can apply to their photography, whether you're using your camera phone, Instagram, a point-and-shoot, or a DSLR. I am not going to go into camera settings and break down every picture I show here. The best way for you to learn about your camera settings is to read your manual and practice.

There are some very specific things you can do to really take your photos to the next level. I don't having a teaching degree or even a photography degree - just a love for the art and I am always looking for ways to improve the way I take photos and expand how I see the world. I will never claim that my way is the right way, that would just be silly. Hopefully this series of tips and lessons I've learned along the way will give you the confidence to start experimenting with how you take photos, and expand how you see the world! I will be covering (in separate posts):

1. Light
2. Composition
3. Basic Editing
4. Color vs. Black and White
5. Inspiration

I will try to keep this as simple and to the point as possible, with visual examples from both my personal and professional photography portfolios, but anyone that knows me knows that I tend to be long-winded. Bear with me, and if you have questions, you can always feel free to ask here or on my Facebook page. And now....

LET THERE BE LIGHT

The first thing to know about photography is that it is all about light. Without light, you have no photo. Sunlight, flash, tungsten, fluorescent...there are many types of light that you can shoot in, and they will all give you different looks. Light will determine every aspect of your photo - it will contribute to the mood, composition, and content. I think the easiest way to tackle light will be to go through a few different types of light, and tips on how to shoot in each.

You may hear the term available light tossed around in regards to photography. Available light refers to any light that you can use to illuminate your photography. It can be from any source: the sun, a table lamp, overhead lights, street lights, the glow from your television/computer/electronic device, sunset, headlights, your flash, someone else's flash, Christmas lights, flashlights, the moon...you get the picture. Anything that casts light is available light that you can use to illuminate your subject. You may or may not have control over the light. For example, the sun - you cannot turn the sun on or off, or control whether it's a fully sunny day, or partly cloudy. However, you can control the time of day that you shoot under the sun (like the "golden hours" around sunrise or sunset), and how you position yourself and your subject in relation to the sun, and the settings you use on your camera in terms of exposure.

Tungsten

You know that warm, orangey glow that you get when you take a picture pretty much anywhere indoors? That's the result of shooting in tungsten light. Most indoor home lighting is tungsten, like from overhead lights or table lamps. It can be difficult to shoot in tungsten lighting, especially if it's really dim, and your pictures may turn out grainy.

Picture taken with iPhone, lit by a table lamp on the right and colored Christmas lights behind us.
While the orange glow may not seem like the most flattering light, it can produce some nice deep, rich tones in a picture, and create a mood of romance.

Light by white twinkle lights and dim electric chandeliers above.
Or warmth...

Lit by wall sconces to the left, white Christmas lights and two windows behind. ISO 3200, f/2.8, 1/125.
 
If shooting using a camera phone or point and shoot, turn off the flash and turn on as many lights as you can. Practice holding your camera/phone steady. The more available light you have, the brighter your images will turn out. Unless, of  course, dimmer lighting is part of the artistic mood you are going for.

@shazzitography on Instagram
Flash

I will just say it. I hate using a flash. Unless it's absolutely necessary (like shooting weddings or incredibly dark conditions), I keep it turned off, on my dSLR and on my iPhone camera. I would usually rather have a darker, more realistically lit photo than one that uses flash, but if you find yourself wanting to use a flash, there are ways you can make it look more natural.

When you think of flash, you probably think of a direct flash of light pointed directly at your subject. This can result in washed out faces, red eye, and a shadow cast behind your subject if they're anywhere near a wall. College Halloween party, anyone?




If you have an external flash on a dSLR (not the one that pops up, I mean one that attaches and detaches), you have more options. You can angle the flash in any number of directions and bounce the light off a ceiling, walls, reflector, etc. This will help prevent washed out faces and red eye. Look at my flash in the picture to the left, pointed straight up at the ceiling.

Pointing your flash elsewhere will allow the light to reflect off a surface and spread out, so when it hits your subject, the amount of light from your flash that actually hits your subject is reduced and diffused. It will also allow the ambient light in the background to show. Here's what a picture can look like with a bounced flash. More natural looking skin tones, ambient light in the background, and no red eye. The little white reflector card on the flash bounces a little light straight on to the subjects, causes the little white "catchlights" in their eyes.


And a similar picture without flash, using available tungsten light. Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference. The look below is more my style than above.

Taken with a dSLR, ISO 1600-3200, f/1.8, 1/125 shutter speed.
Keep in mind that when shooting without flash, it becomes important to steady your hands to get as sharp a picture as possible. 

Natural Light

I frequently shoot outside and utilize the best light source you could ever hope for. It doesn't require batteries. It's the sun. Natural light is my preferred light for shooting. When I say "natural", I am referring to sunlight, be it direct, shining through a window, a cloudy day, etc.


How you position yourself outside in natural lighting will give you many options and "looks". You may choose to use the sun as backlighting, where your subject is between you and the sun, creating a warm glow and maybe even some sun flare.




In the image above, the snowy ground acts like a natural reflector. Even though the subjects are backlit, the sun reflects off the snow on the ground, illuminating their faces.


Backlighting in a doorway plus some high contrast editing can create a really cool silhouette effect.

High Noon Sun

Photographers talk about the "golden hours" of sunlight, the 2 or 3 hours around sunrise and sunset when the sun is lower, softer, warmer, and you know...perfect. And then there's high noon sun that is really bright and overpowering and casts dark shadows on your face because the only angle you can work with it is directly from above. It tends to wash out skin tones and cause your subjects to squint. If I have to shoot in this type of light (which I try to avoid at any cost), there are ways to make it work, like using it as an opportunity to get a wider, more artistic shot, where facial features are not the focus of the image.

You can also shoot in the middle of the day by utilizing shade. Position your subject under a tree or storefront canopy, or the side of a building that is not in direct sunlight. 

Sitting on the doorstep of an inverted doorway, her hair picks up some sunlight but her face is in the shade.
Reflectors

You can't always go outside to take pictures, so how can you optimize what you have to work with? Open up your curtains or blinds. Try to take pictures during the day when the most sunlight is coming through your windows. Bring your subject to the light, and then bring light to your subject. Use white sheets or a poster board to create reflectors to brighten up areas that would otherwise be shadowy. You may notice that I often try to photograph Lily on brighter surfaces. These surfaces reflect natural light coming through the windows and help me to get sharper, more natural looking pictures, even if my shooting conditions are not ideal. And I loooooove me some good window light.

Diffused window light, white blanket under her face and white onesie help brighten her face.
Late afternoon sunlight hitting her face. Pink pjs and her yellow quilt reflect warmer, more colorful tones onto her skin.
Bride is lit by the diffused window sunlight, with warm tungsten light behind her.

Catchlights

Always try to make sure your subject's eyes have "catchlights", which is a simple way to bring a lot of life into your photos. This can be achieved with any light source being caught in the eyes, giving them that bright twinkle.




 

Natural light help will take your Instagram photos up a notch and you'll get much sharper images...even with your favorite filters applied (I frequently use Valencia, Walden, Amaro, Rise, Willow and Sierra). I don't particularly love the camera function on Instagram, so I use the regular iPhone camera app to take my pictures, and then open them up in Instagram. Tap the phone screen where you want the focus to be (hint: focus on the eyes).


Lastly, think about how you use light.

Knowing how to use light that's available to you is the most important aspect of creating powerful photos. It plays heavily into composition, which will be my next blog post, but the possibilities are endless.


You will notice that I did not get into camera settings, ISO, aperture, auto versus manual...I am trying to stick to essential basics of photography as an art, not the technical side of things. If you have questions or comments, I'd love to hear them! I enjoyed writing this and look forward to diving into composition next!