Friday, December 30, 2011

Needless to say - I'm happy

Several happy things happened today.

The hubs made reservations for our anniversary dinner later this month at The Frog Hollow which is a stunningly good farm-to-table local restaurant and  he lined up a babysitter. Serious kudos to him.


my grandpa's pentax

read the rest of it here.

New Years resolutions & upgrading your gear


love New Years. 

Christmas is okay, I could honestly take it or leave it, but New Years - that is a holiday I can not live without. Twice a year - on New Years and on my birthday - I press the "refresh" button on life, I start over, look ahead and plan to make changes. Sure some years those New Years resolutions look more like wishful thinking than actual plans to make habit-altering reforms, but still - I love it.

For those of you who follow my blog I'm guessing you have a few New Years resolutions of your own and that they might have something to do with your photography. Of course I hope you'll plan to improve your photography by participating in one of my photography e-classes but I'm also guessing that your plans include upgrading your gear, to some extent or another. So I wanted to jot down a few thoughts I had while I was washing my hair and share them here with you.

Snaps of my new cameras

Several happy things happened today.

The hubs made reservations for our anniversary dinner later this month at The Frog Hollow which is a stunningly good farm-to-table local restaurant and  he lined up a babysitter. Serious kudos to him.

I registered the domain for my new blog. I won't tell you what it is yet because the site is a catastrophic mess at the moment. But it won't be for too much longer - I'm very confident that I can get it up and running very soon. I used blogger's domain registration via GoDaddy and Google. It was the easiest thing ever.

I also got some time to photograph my new cameras - the ones my mom gave me for Christmas. I'm so happy with the results. The Pentax was my grandpa's and he used it to take photos at the Atlanta Olympics! Even more special - the Contaflex is another one of my grandpa's cameras that he used to photograph my mom when she was his little girl. I'm totally psyched out of my mind to figure out how to use it to photograph my children. I need to get more batteries for the Pentax before I can use it - but it came with this 50mm lens and a macro converter and a zoom lens! Very cool. Plus my mom gave me some of her old 35mm film. There is some really special film photograph magic coming from my house soon!

my grandpa's pentax DSC_1657 copy.jpg DSC_1637 4 DSC_1648 2VP.jpg
Editing notes: I used the Paint the Moon action for PSE called "Vanilla Pop" and tweaked the levels a little to sharpen and deepen the blacks.

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Formerly Simplicity - my life in {mostly} photographs

Photography gear & your new years resolutions

I love New Years.

Christmas is okay, I could honestly take it or leave it, but New Years - that is a holiday I can not live without. Twice a year - on New Years and on my birthday - I press the "refresh" button on life, I start over, look ahead and plan to make changes. Sure some years those New Years resolutions look more like wishful thinking than actual plans to make habit-altering reforms, but still - I love it.

For those of you who follow my blog I'm guessing you have a few New Years resolutions of your own and that they might have something to do with your photography. Of course I hope you'll plan to improve your photography by participating in one of my photography e-classes but I'm also guessing that your plans include upgrading your gear, to some extent or another. So I wanted to jot down a few thoughts I had while I was washing my hair and share them here with you.

Learn how to use the camera you have before you invest in a new camera
This, of course, is why I offer photography classes, because I am a firm believer that while your gear does effect your photography the biggest thing you can do to improve your photography is to learn how to use what you have. A few really basic principles and a slight shift in how you are looking at your photos can make a huge impact - with only the investment of a little bit of time and intention. I can tell you I've seen a lot of different photographers with a lot of different quality of gear and I believe it more now than ever: an amazing camera won't make you an amazing photographer. 

Upgrade your lens before you upgrade your body
I learned this the hard way. When I upgraded from the Nikon D80 to the D700 I expected to see jaw-dropping improvement (after all I'd just spent a jaw-dropping amount of money on this camera!) and I have to say I didn't see it right away. I notice it now, especially if I go back to using my D80 for a little while, but I didn't at first. Then one of my friends upgraded her lens on her entry-level SLR and voila! the difference really was jaw-dropping, and for a fraction of the cost. If you want to see a big improvement in your photography and you already have an SLR then upgrade your lens. What lens do I recommend? Read that here. 

Wait to upgrade your SLR body
I've read lately that there are major upgrades coming to the Pro SLR camera world. With a much-needed upgrade to the Canon 5D Mark II just around the corner as well as a stellar upgrade to the Nikon D700 coming sometime in the very near future my advice is to hold off on that body upgrade until the summer - when the release of the new cameras will (hopefully) drive down the price of the current cameras to a more affordable price range. So if you're thinking that this is your year to go pro - read this post and keep saving. 

If you're going to buy a starter SLR - buy it now.
If this is the year you want to dive into SLR photography - now is the time to buy. I recommend Amazon.com as the best place to buy online. I literally spent weeks researching all of the online shops I could find thinking that maybe I'd buy 2nd hand and settled on Amazon.com with a very satisfactory experience. Their prices are practically unbeatable (I did a quick price match of a handful of sites just to make sure that what I was writing is still true and it is - they beat out their competitors by nearly $100) and the confidence I had buying from amazon.com  is priceless. Want to know what camera I recommend? I wrote all about it here.

If you've just bought your first SLR learn how to use it.
How could I not mention this?! My ebook is nearly ready and it will (hopefully!) be available to download in full on January first, you can download a little sample of it over here and I also have a class starting January 9 for learning how to use your digital SLR camera.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Favorite movies of 2011

Since my kids have all been home on winter break we've been doing a little bit of cleaning the house and I've found all kinds of scraps of paper in my kids rooms and notebooks upon notebooks of lists, mostly written by my oldest. She gets it from me, I guess.  I like writing lists too. One of my favorite lists to keep is my list of favorite movies of the year. Later I'm going to let my girls share their lists of their favorite books that they've read this year. 


Family and Kids
Dolphin Tale - one of the best live action family movies of the year.

Rango - my favorite animated family movies of the year, engaging for older kids and adults though I suggest you read a mom's review  before you decide if it's going to be okay for your younger kids.

Kung Fu Panda 2 - one of my favorite animated movies for younger kids. My four year old boy really liked it.

Cars 2 - how could you have a list of movies of this year without having Cars 2 on it?

Tangled  - technically this is a movie from the end of 2010 but  I didn't see it until this year. It's my favorite animated movie for girls of the year.

Ramona and Beezus - The whole family enjoyed this, especially my girls who are ages ten to six. It's a great mix of drama, laughter and romance.

Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer - I really enjoyed watching this movie with my kids, it held the attention of all of my movie-watching aged kids (ages ten to four).

Monte Carlo - a nice, romantic  pre-teen movie.

Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World - surprisingly, this was my favorite Spy Kids movie yet.

Mr. Popper's Penguins- we just watched this the other night and the whole family really enjoyed it.

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader - my older girls (ages ten and eight) especially enjoyed this movie.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!  - this is my favorite new series from PBS Kids and the best thing to come from The Cat in the Hat brand since the original book.

Peep and the Big Wide World - another one of our favorite shows from PBS with little science experiments at the end of each episode. It's darling.

BBC Earth: Life - of all of the nature miniseries we've bought this one is my favorite. My four year old asks to watch this nearly every day. The cinematography is exceptional and the entire series is captivating.


Movies to watch with your sisters
The Help - I watched this while wrapping presents. The hubs enjoyed it too, even though it's more of a chick-flick. It's got a great plot, good acting and beautiful costuming. Definitely one to buy.

Jane Eyre - I'm such a sucker for Brit-Lit drama. This one did not disappoint and I thought it managed to hold it's own in a sea of similar movies.

Larry Crowne - If you liked movies like "You've got mail" or other Tom Hank love fests you'll like this one too. It's great with  pint of ice cream or a glass of wine.

The Conspirator  - another period drama, on the topic of wrongful execution.

The King's Speech - period drama done to perfection. It won all kinds of awards and deserves every one of them. If you like period pieces this one is cinematic deliciousness, and if you know your British Royal history it's doubly so. Based on the story of the current Queen Elizabeth's father.

I Am Number Four - it's a lightweight teen drama with cute actors and a decent plot. My favorite thing about this movie is that the girl (who is also in Glee) is a photographer. Strangely I find myself wanting to watch it over and over.

Beastly - it's horribly predictable and yet a nice teen chick flick. I wish that the story could have been as good as the wardrobe.


Movies to watch with your hubs
Moneyball - I just watched this with the hubs last week and we both really enjoyed it. It's got very good cinematography, a good plot and good acting. It's clean and the hubs stayed awake until the end, that says a lot.

Fast Five  - I enjoyed this movie a lot, the hubs watched it two or three times.

Crazy, Stupid Love - I enjoyed it. My favorite line: "it's like you're photoshopped" It's worth reading a review first because this type of movie may not be your cup of tea, but overall I enjoyed it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides  Such a fun movie to watch with my hubs. I think this is one of the few movies we saw in the theater. I wouldn't let my kids watch it because the oldest is only ten, but they enjoy plating the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean video game.

Super 8 - a fun, unique sci-fi movie with excellent performances by the kids who star in this movie. A good plot - not overly relying on special effects.

The Debt - such a good drama. We both enjoyed this movie a lot.

Limitless  - I really liked this one too. It had some unexpected twists, and I really liked the supporting cast.

Unknown - such a good drama. Really well done.

Source Code - one of my favorite movies of this year. It drags just a little in the middle but it's worth it to get to the end.

Arthur- this movie was poorly promoted. It's way cleaner than the previews make it seem to be. I enjoyed this movie so much and is a lighthearted, romantic comedy

The Switch  - definitely my favorite RomCom of this year. Such a good movie.

The Next Three Days - this is a great drama. Probably my favorite movie from Russell Crowe.

Unstoppable - a great, positive drama. It totally lived up to my expectations.

Everything Must Go - my favorite movie from Will Ferrell - and I'm not a huge fan of his. It's a really good movie about turning your life around.

Inception - if you didn't see this last year you need to see it. It's probably one of the best movies of the decade.

What have your favorite movies been?

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favorite movies from 2011

Since my kids have all been home on winter break we've been doing a little bit of cleaning the house and I've found all kinds of scraps of paper in my kids rooms and notebooks upon notebooks of lists, mostly written by my oldest. She gets it from me, I guess.  I like writing lists too. One of my favorite lists to keep is my list of favorite movies of the year. Later I'm going to let my girls share their lists of their favorite books that they've read this year. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

it's the little things...


We had our family "Christmas" this morning... I could not have asked for a better morning. The kids were all so thankful, cheerful and have been playing happily all morning long... and I could not be happier

on a personal note...

this may very well be one of the last times I write on this blog... I'm hoping to have a new one ready to launch January first with a shiny new e-book to go along with your shiny new camera.

It's 2am and finally the last of the presents are wrapped and the pink, blue and green wrapped gifts are sitting by the fireplace. I look at that pile of presents and feel a little bit "what the heck is this all for anyway" I think about the money we spent. I wonder if any of it matters, it feels like this whole holiday is such an ordeal and I wonder if it would scar my children for life if we just skipped Christmas next year and volunteered at the soup kitchen instead. That is when I realize that my mental ramblings really have nothing to do with the underprivileged and everything to do with all the coffee I've been drinking tonight - which makes me prone to mood swings -  and as I ride the wave of emotions tonight  I have a micro revelation - I am depressed.

Yes, I can be depressed  with a heart full of gratitude. Yes, I can be, if not especially, depressed after a wonderful day with my kids. I settled fights peacefully and calmly. I exercised a dump truck load of self-control. Well, at least until I opened a package of Oreos anyway. Today I danced with my daughter who is nearly as tall as I am and marveled at how quickly these years have flown by. It's been a great day and tomorrow should be even better, how can I feel this way? Why are my emotions careening off the cliff edge to this familiar Pied-Pipe'r tune? And like the gentle voice from my best friend the words form in my mind, reminding me that depression isn't just mental or emotional - it's physical. The needle for my gas tank is resting at empty and the little light has come on to remind me to stop at the gas station before I try to do anything else. I take a deep breath. I stop freaking out. I know I'm going to be okay. I remember that I'll feel a lot better in the morning - maybe not first thing in the morning, but well you know what I mean.

I just thought I'd share that in case that's you - feeling bad for how bad you feel. I know. I'm there with you honey.

Now I'm going to let myself be sad, admit that I am frazzled stressed tired and just plain sad and then I'm going to bed and I'm going to have a wonderful day tomorrow watching my kids enjoy their holiday.  I can't wait to see their faces, I know it'll be beautiful, not perfect, but beautiful.

on a personal note

This may very well be one of the last times I write on this blog... I'm hoping to have a new one ready to launch January first with a shiny new e-book to go along with your shiny new camera.

It's 2am and finally the last of the presents are wrapped and the pink, blue and green wrapped gifts are sitting by the fireplace. I look at that pile of presents and feel a little bit "what the heck is this all for anyway" I think about the money we spent. I wonder if any of it matters, it feels like this whole holiday is such an ordeal and I wonder if it would scar my children for life if we just skipped Christmas next year and volunteered at the soup kitchen instead. That is when I realize that my mental ramblings really have nothing to do with the underprivileged and everything to do with all the coffee I've been drinking tonight - which makes me prone to mood swings -  and as I ride the wave of emotions tonight  I have a micro revelation - I am depressed.

Yes, I can be depressed  with a heart full of gratitude. Yes, I can be, if not especially, depressed after a wonderful day with my kids. I settled fights peacefully and calmly. I exercised a dump truck load of self-control. Well, at least until I opened a package of Oreos anyway. Today I danced with my daughter who is nearly as tall as I am and marveled at how quickly these years have flown by. It's been a great day and tomorrow should be even better, how can I feel this way? Why are my emotions careening off the cliff edge to this familiar Pied-Pipe'r tune? And like the gentle voice from my best friend the words form in my mind, reminding me that depression isn't just mental or emotional - it's physical. The needle for my gas tank is resting at empty and the little light has come on to remind me to stop at the gas station before I try to do anything else. I take a deep breath. I stop freaking out. I know I'm going to be okay. I remember that I'll feel a lot better in the morning - maybe not first thing in the morning, but well you know what I mean.

I just thought I'd share that in case that's you - feeling bad for how bad you feel. I know. I'm there with you honey.

Now I'm going to let myself be sad, admit that I am frazzled stressed tired and just plain sad and then I'm going to bed and I'm going to have a wonderful day tomorrow watching my kids enjoy their holiday.  I can't wait to see their faces, I know it'll be beautiful, not perfect, but beautiful.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

a (mostly) failed attempt

The hubs asked me to have some canvas prints made of the family. I ordered four from Easy Canvas Prints (which I'm going to blog about one of these days!! I had a very good experience ordering from them) but I've got five kids and need to order one more. This has been a real learning experience - ordering canvases - and it's slightly altered how I shoot, mostly in regards to leaving more space around the edge of my shot for cropping a print or wrapping a canvas. So the other day I attempted to photograph Josiah for his canvas print. It was an epic fail. He was uncooperative and would not could not be still long enough to get the type of shot that I'd want to hang on my wall. He's really expressive and very active so trying to get just the right shot is tricky. (Exhibit 100 for why being a professional photographer is a lot harder than you'd think! And why I'm not one at the moment) 

DSC_0796
love the light on his face and in his eyes - but what a face!!
DSC_0791
I love how calm this one looks and I really like the lighting in this shot
DSC_0830
if only he was looking at the camera
DSC_0821
cue the crazy face!
DSC_0810
this is one of my favorites but the expression is still a little off - and I'll need to photoshop his shirt
DSC_0803
love that smile - but you can't see his eyes!!
DSC_0802DSC_0800
DSC_0793
now you can see his eyes but where is the smile?!



Maybe I just need a more cooperative model? My Emma loves to have her picture taken:
DSC_0894
White balance is set much too cool
DSC_0897DSC_0903
I fixed my white balance by adjusting the Kelvin White Balance on my camera
DSC_0915
what is up with the angle on this shot? I think maybe I was shooting too close and got some lens distortion.
DSC_0918
this is better - but I'd like to see more eyes
DSC_0921
sweet happy snaggle-tooth girl
DSC_0922
her model pose
DSC_0926

I give up.

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