Dear Academics…

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I have a message for you.  A serious message – illustrated by a serious, intent baby.  Please do not steal my blog posts or photos.

You see, I have this nifty little gadget from WordPress that allows me to check how people got to my blog.  And if suddenly I start getting large amounts of views from a website titled “Alternative Photography 2015” then I’m going to be suspicious and click on that link to go see what you’re up to.

To be completely honest, I’m not very happy about you copy/pasting large chunks of my blog posts for your cyanotype syllabii.  Granted, I’m happy you included a link to my cyanotype tutorials so that your students can read up on my trials and errors.  I am NOT happy to see my work used instead of you getting off your arse and actually, you know, doing the job that you’re PAID to do and creating your own course work.

To be brutally blunt, I’m appalled.  Universities are the last bastion against plagiarism.  Professors spend an inordinate amount of time checking their students’ work for plagiarism.  And to turn around and blatantly steal my work?  You should be ashamed.  I’m ashamed for you.  What a bad example you set!

To your students: I’m glad you’re here.  Poke around, check things out, and feel free to message me if you have questions about my work.  I can’t promise I’ll swiftly reply, but I’ll do my best.  I really hope that my work can challenge you, intrigue you, or inspire you to do better than me.   Good luck with your projects and remember that sometimes, alternative photography is a series of interesting mistakes.  Run with it!

Sincerely,

me.

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Photographing children – the law vs. Mamma bear

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There’s a very fine, thin line when it comes to photographing people in public places (I’m completely avoiding the public vs. right to privacy places.)  The law generally says you can photograph to your heart’s content, and even post online, sell (commercially is another can of worms,) or use as a promotion or part of your art work.

In reality, people expect more privacy from a photographer than the law allows.  Especially when it comes to children.

I AM a photographer, and I absolutely hate for people to take pictures of my kids.  I’ve asked that none of our family post my kids’ pics online, especially on Facebook, and most of them have honored that request.  My husband pointed out that I blithely post photographs of them on this blog so Facebook shouldn’t matter that much.  Somehow that’s different.  I know anyone with a halfway decent photo editing program could edit my watermark out of the pics, but using a watermark makes it a bit more difficult.  Plus, it stamps a “This is MY photo, by gosh, leave it alone!” comment all over the image.  For the casual copy/paste thief it’s probably enough deterrent.

This weekend we had a purely negative experience at our neighborhood’s fall festival over just this issue – someone taking photographs of my kid.  This kid.  Kelton.  And if some of my neighbors happen to read this and get upset because they know the offender, I’m sorry if I offend you, but I stand by what I said to her.

The two older kids were decorating pumpkins at a small table and I was keeping an eye on them and watching Kelton at the same time.  Kelton was sitting in his red wagon watching all the action, close enough to see everything, but not close enough for the wagon to get in everyone’s way.  I turn around from trying to keep A from sticking foam on her nose to see some random woman with a wanna-be SLR crouched down on Kelton’s level.  At first I thought she was talking to him.  No big deal.  Then I saw her raise the camera and start snapping pictures of him.  I should point out that these were head shots – close up images of just Kelton.  No one else was in the shot, and no festival activity was included.

I asked her what she was doing, and she replied that she was taking pictures of the event to post on the community website/Facebook page.  Not cool.  I asked her not to photograph my kids, saying that I didn’t want them posted online.  She became very offended and defensive.  I told her that she needed to ask first, and that set off a nasty escalation of personal insults.  Since I got the results I needed I backed down and avoided making the situation worse.

Now, you might think I’m crazy to be so cautious and paranoid.  And in reality, you’re probably right.  But did you ever think what kind of social/economic/private information might be gathered simply by compiling information about your kids online?  For example, one mom I know has multiple social networking accounts and work networking accounts.  If you Google her name, what pops up first?  Images of her little girl.  If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

Add that to the multiple information accounts that are so easily hackable (doctor’s office network, anyone?) and I think being cautious isn’t a bad thing.  In just our family alone our credit cards have been stolen from routine transactions and our medical information has been hacked.  This included critical information like Social Security ID numbers, contact information, and birth dates.  That information breach was for all of us – the kids included.

The crux of the matter is control.  Who has control over the kids’ information?  Is it us, the parents, or is it widely spread out and easily searchable online?  If I take an image of my kids, my choice of where to post it is critical.  Facebook’s rules on ownership make me very wary as a photographer.  If someone else takes an image of my kids I have no idea where it might end up.

As a photographer mom, my own personal rules rely on common sense.  I will not take close-up shots of kids without asking permission first, and I make sure that parents get copies of those images whenever possible (playgroup, sports events.)   I’m fine with some group event shots but I still try to blur out other kids and focus only on mine if that’s the intent.  I will not post images of other kids online and I even avoid putting images of other kids in the photo books that we hand out for family Christmas presents most years.

I dread the days of teenagers being rebellious and crazy with internet access, but I hope that I can instill this caution in them as they grow.  Who needs a future employer rejecting you as a candidate because your mom posted naked baby pics (bad idea all around, that!) on Facebook when you were little?  Given the way technology evolves, we may face discrimination if our pattern of behaviour online doesn’t fit an HR department’s criteria.  Who knows?  I only know that I will do my best not to sabotage my kids before they even become a teen.

And people with cameras?  Ask first before shooting pictures of my kids.  Don’t make me go all Mamma bear on you!

Portrait Myth #465 – look at the camera!

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I have to admit, I’m purely going on my personal opinion here.  That said, some of the best portrait shots I’ve seen by noted photographers did not have the subject looking squarely at the camera with a vapid smile on their face.  Nope, most of the more interesting ones I can think of, not that I’m thinking very well at the moment being annoyingly sick, may not even show the subjects’ face at all.   Looking back at photographs of Corbin, most of my images of him that tell a story are not facing front to the camera.  In fact, one of the recent best doesn’t show his face at all!  Not to say that classic portraits don’t have their place – a good mix is best, as in everything.  Especially if you’re sending photographs to distant grandparents who don’t get to visit that often.  More is better!  (Frequent is better too, but I’ve turned into a lump of tired mommy lately.)

 

That said.  Here’s Anarah at 4 months.  She’s highly interested in what her  big brother is doing at the moment.  She’s watching every move he makes (and eyeballing nearby crayons with a speculative eye.)   She’s so excited about what’s going on that I had to stop every few shots and haul her back up onto the pillow.  Otherwise she was reduced to chewing on the pillow and slowly slipping below eye level because of all the kicking and wiggling.   Big brother Corbin has been  a great help getting good shots of Anarah.  She’s so interested in what Corbin is up to that she tends to ignore the annoying thing hiding mommy and making noises.

You’d think 2 kids in that I would have this baby photography down pat.  Nope!  I’m still learning.

  • Baby girls look a lot more feminine (when bald) if they wear a headband.
  • Distraction is key.  Siblings are great!
  • Get on their level.  Shooting at a downward angle hides their eyes.
  • Boppy pillows are great photography tools.  And no, I don’t get paid for that endorsement.

Image details:  shot indoors in natural low lighting, with a pretty hefty ISO that ended up making a lot of images too soft to use.

Meet Anarah

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Hullo blogging world

Meet the newest addition to the family – Anarah.  She decided to wait until her exact due date, and she weighed exactly the same as her older brother when he was born.  Go figure!  We’re glad to have her here – me especially! pregnancy with a toddler in tow is no picnic.

When we had Corbin, I decided to do a monthly photo shoot with him documenting his growth for the first year because they grow so quickly at first.  We’re doing the same thing this go around with Anarah, although I’m having difficulty hitting the exact month schedule.  This image is Anarah at  about 5 weeks instead of a month.  We’re a lot more casual about things with the second kiddo, but I’m astounded by how quickly she seems to be doing some developmental things – like reaching for her image in a mirror and holding her head up.

 

I can already see that my next big cyanotype project will be a set of images of my kids when they were little – I tend to like the more conceptual images in black and white while the family prefers the color shots.  Both are good to have, but the conceptual ones will make a good series.  I might, if things go well, get this series done by the time they’re teenagers.  We live in hope!

Seriously though, I’m tearing my hair out trying to tend to the needs of both children without neglecting either of them.  Bedtime is a much appreciated milestone in our day – the parents, not the kids, duh!  I shouldn’t complain really – Anarah is truly a happy, well-adjusted baby who sleeps well, and I’m so blessed to have two wonderful children.

 

About the image:  shot indoors, with natural light and a pretty hefty ISO. Basic darkroom edits only – like I have time to manipulate images these days!

Angled, again

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Time flies.  Trite, but true!  It’s been a few months since I posted last.  I’ve got to stop saying “sorry” because obviously, this is the hallmark of the new, not-so-improved, mommy me.

 

Anyway, I did it again.  I shot a photo at an angle (accidentally) and ended up liking the shot because of the way it framed the subject.  And yes, it’s wholly accidental – when your two year old son offers you a strawberry (and you’re 8 months pregnant sitting on the ground) the only way to capture it in time is to throw the camera up and click the shutter!

I do have to point out that it looks deliberate.  That makes the sin of the angle a little less problematic.  If you happen to get a slight angle in your image or the horizon isn’t completely straight, it can sometimes look like you accidentally goofed and just weren’t paying attention.  This was deliberate.  Yup! 

Corbin and I went picking strawberries this season, and unlike last year, he actually ate all the ones he picked instead of squishing them.  None of them made it in the bucket, but that’s ok.  Quite a few made it on his shirt, so as far as photography outings go this wasn’t truly a winner.  And I have to note: yes, he does actually have scars on his face, that’s not strawberry mess.  The poor kiddo face-planted off the sofa into the carpet and skidded a bit.  I seriously considered editing out the evidence but we can’t remove all the less-than-happy memories from our photographs.  It’s not very truthful, and someday we might (might!?) actually laugh over the incident.

 

Hopefully the next time I post there will be brand-new baby pics of the new little one. 

 

A full year

It’s been a long year, and I’m really sorry that I’ve neglected this blog. I can’t truly say that I had much choice because when it comes to my work or taking care of Corbin, it’s a pretty easy decision who wins.  And look at that super cute face – who could argue that I made the wrong choice?

Corbin is a year old, and looking back over the last year, frankly, I’m surprised that we made it.  We spent way more time in hospitals and doctor’s offices than I care to remember, but at the end of the year he’s doing pretty good.  Actually, he’s constantly on the move.  A bundle of energy.  And I, who never had all that much energy in the first place, end up crashing into bed at the end of the day exhausted from trying to keep up with one small boy.  I’m rather scared that things will only get more crazy now that he’s so close to walking on his own!

In terms of photography, it’s also been interesting.  Shooting baby pictures are challenging.  Really challenging.  Professional photographers have my sympathy.  In the beginning, it wasn’t easy trying to get interesting pictures of a tiny squirmy baby that slept most of the time and spent all of his photo shoot lying in one place.  As Corbin began to move and wiggle more, the challenge was how to get a good, interesting photograph that didn’t blur into a mess because I was trying to keep up with him.

Now, as Corbin crawls and tries to walk, the challenge is taking photographs while trying to keep him from knocking his teeth out in a nasty fall, or crawling toward  a pond, stopping only to ingest a small rock or whatever stick/piece of trash/flower petal that catches his fancy.  He’s definitely my child – forget looking at all the interesting stuff around him, he’s only interested in the visually arresting white styrofoam cup lying on the black asphalt parking lot.  There are certainly times that I wish someone else was holding him so I could capture the times he runs up and down the sidewalk brandishing a dandelion at the passing cars.  Or when he stops dead in his tracks and yells “Og!” at a passing dog on a walk.

And at the end of the year, I really wish I could report better news.  It certainly appears that he has no more hair now than he did in the first picture I posted of him.

The quality of lighting…

Well, the kiddo is this close to actually crawling, and if I thought photographing a baby was difficult before, it sure is more so now!  We get things set up and comfy on his blanket in the sun, and no sooner do I get the camera out then he turns and faces the sun (or away from the sun.)  Fun times.  I won’t even go into what the mechanics of the bribe involved – getting a smile out of Corbin is difficult when he needs a nap.  Not to mention the bright sunny weather was a breezy 50ish degrees – which doesn’t put him in the best of moods either.

Not that I’m complaining about the weather, nope!  Last winter at this time of the year, I was busy cursing the weather gods for dropping a ton of snow on us when I was heavily pregnant with Corbin.  This winter has been eerily warm and non-snowy.  I think we’re all just waiting for the big one to hit and drop some 4 feet of snow on us in one memorable weekend.

Anyway, back to the title subject – sleep deprivation is starting to kick in again and I’m meandering.

Oh yeah, lighting.  Yup.

I’ve never really worked with back lighting before, and it was a lot of blown-out highlighty fun.  When Corbin cooperated and stayed in one spot, you could see that he has hair! See, I told you guys that he wasn’t bald, and now I have proof.

Technical stuff:  I learned pretty quickly that the camera light meter had 5 sort of fits when I worked with back lighting, so I had to play things by ear a bit.  I could have reset the meter to spot meter and just metered off of his face, but that took way more time and energy than I had when corralling an 8 month old and preventing him from tasting the pavement.  Or chewing.  Whichever he thought he was doing.

Intellectually I knew that back lighting works best with a fill-in flash to open up the eyes of your subject.  Ugh.  Not only do I not have the right flash, I’m really leery of popping a flash on my infant son over and over.  It just seems bad for their eyes, not to mention the possibility of triggering seizures.  Paranoid much?  Yup.  So no flash.  What I did do was try and position the light colored blanket he was laying on to reflect a little light.  It didn’t do much, but it was better than the brick that absorbed light.

If you’re reading this for tips and hits I suggest that you shoot a lot in raw when trying back lighting.  And chimp a lot, it helps pinpoint your exposure.  {Chimp: to continually check your images on the LCD screen}  Technically I think that’s probably cheating, but if it helps, who really cares?  Your positioning as photographer really helps too – you want your subject to block the sun, leaving light to blow over their heads a little.  Too much light and you end up with a halo looking effect, or totally losing the subject in the sun.

 

Last, but not least, please remember that I’m not a pro.  Not at all.  In fact, I’m looking at this shot now thinking it’s a tad muddy.  Ick.  Another round of editing is in order.