I hate it. I love it. I just don’t know…


Ever stared at a word long enough that it starts to look mis-spelled?  I do that with images.  If I fuss over it long enough and dither back and forth, I eventually end up hating it.  Even if it’s a good image I can over-analyze it to death.  And sometimes, if it’s a bad image, I get to the point that I simply can’t tell.  That’s pure death in an artistic vacuum.

I think I’ve reached that point with this image.  When I shot it, I loved it.  I like the motion, the colors, the shapes.  After I stared at it for about 15 minutes of back and forth editing, I decided the center post is glaringly annoying and that’s all I can see when I look at it.   That’s usually the point that I walk away and leave it for a few months so that my editing eye has a chance to forget my initial reaction.

Instead of leaving it, I’m going to post it.  Because even if it’s a horrible shot, true to my goal with this blog, it’s what I’m working on.

I think the main reason I decided I hated it is because I went out of my comfort zone and tried messing around with altering it.  Right now its only edit is (beyond correcting the light and a square crop) adding a vignette.  I think vignettes look artificial and corny unless you do it the hard way (with the lens.)  I admit, I’m an old-school snob at times.

So there you have it.  A weird shot with a weird effect.

Details: Subject is a wind spinner, paint weathering is all natural.  f6.3, 1/400, and ISO 400. (don’t ask, was working with low light on another shoot and forgot to change it.)  Square crop, lighting adjustment, and mild vignette added.

Portrait Myth #465 – look at the camera!


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.

My kid could do that! (he did)


Corbin is 2 years old.  Well, 2 and a few months, which in kid world is FOREVER!  He considers himself such a big boy, especially when he sees all the babyish things his little sister does like drool everywhere, be incredibly boring, and not play with all the cool toys.  (although both he and the dog thought the squeaky teether Anarah recently acquired was a wonderful thing and totally wasted on her.)

And since he’s such a big boy, it’s only natural that he move on past the boring, dated squishy toys and onto something better.  A techno-gadget toy.  One that actually does something.  Like my old camera.  It has all those wonderful buttons (oops, he turned on the red-eye!) and the shiny thing in the front (cue Corbin fingerprint photographs.)  And it makes gadget noises!  Awesome!

Once he got over the shiny not-so-newness of his new, supervised toy, he got down to the nitty-gritty of what you can actually do with it.  Since it does have a view screen on it despite being an absolute dinosaur, he’s learning to frame his pictures and hold the camera still while he takes the shot he wants.  And he certainly knows what he wants – I was told in definite tones on a walk recently, “take pictures of trees.  Pictures of leaves.”  Which he then proceeded to do.  He’s fascinated with the year rings in tree stumps, and the first time we saw some on our walk, he shot over to them and started snapping away.

It’s terrifying and cute at the same time to watch him hold up the camera and concentrate on the view screen.  He’s so serious!  I’ve seen that same look on professional photographers trying to get that perfect shot.

House rules: you must always wear the strap around your neck.  Problem is, when he bends over the camera smacks the ground.  I’ll have to get a smaller strap for my budding photographer.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the camera won’t last that long though – after all, he is two!

On our last photo shoot in a visit to Shenandoah National Park, I pulled out my camera to get a shot of him sitting on a log.  He immediately hopped up and said “Corbin take pictures!”  Um, no!  Mommy’s camera is off limits!

Humor aside, I’m fascinated to watch him take pictures.  What he decides to shoot, the viewpoint, and the angle are all uniquely childlike.  What we wouldn’t consider worth a second glance he finds interesting.  He generally shoots it from the viewpoint that catches his interest – a child’s eye level, and up close.  I’m super proud of him, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this in the future.

The depressing thing is, with an auto setting and decent lighting, you can’t really tell a 2 year-old took the shot.  Digital: so simple a toddler can do it.

Long Island

Not quite there…


We recently went to Long Island – my husband for his job, and Corbin and I followed.  With our day free while dad worked, Corbin got to visit his very first beach.  He wasn’t so sure about it at first.  The second visit, he decided that not only was this surf thing fun, but that he could just GO! all on his own.  And he did!

So, our beach visit officially marks the point at which Corbin  started walking.  What a cool way to remember that.

I did take the camera while we were there, despite the obvious difficulties of baby + beach + camera, and I managed to capture a some fun moments and a few decent photographs (and even a few that didn’t have a baby in them!)  I did make a point of taking a photograph of the seagulls who stole my lunch just for posterity’s sake.

I’m ashamed to admit that I had a stereotypical attitude toward Long Island beaches – I had no idea that they were so pretty.  The south beaches, that is.  I hear the north beaches fulfill my assumptions quite well.

Corbin and I trekked out to Robert Moses State Park, and after spending a few hours chasing the surf and trotting around in the sand, we headed down the boardwalk to check out the Fire Island Lighthouse around the corner at Fire Island National Seashore.  As far as I could tell there was no way to drive to the lighthouse – we had to walk.  And although it didn’t look that far away, the boardwalk seemed designed to twist back and forth and make the walk as long and winding as possible.  We reached this point and had to turn around so that we could get back to the hotel and meet dad for dinner – and really, Corbin had that exhausted look anyways, so no need to go further.

I’d forgotten just how much I miss the ocean.


By the way, why was the lighthouse flashing the light during a bright sunny day?  Wasn’t that a waste of electricity?

Unexpected snapshot success


I’m surprised by this image.  Everyone who sees it (and that’s quite a few because my husband took it into work) comments that it’s “sooooo cute!”  I don’t personally think it’s a good shot for multiple reasons.

  • First, Corbin’s eyes are practically shut.  That’s never a good thing, especially when trying to take pictures of a kid.


  • Second, it’s shot at an odd angle.  (you try shooting in the snow and see how difficult it is!)  I really needed a ladder to get a better angle, and since the snow was melting and we had places to be, this was the best I could do.


  • Third, sure, he’s smiling, but what is he smiling at?  I can tell you his daddy was making him laugh, but you certainly don’t know that just looking at the image.


  • Fourth, I hate shooting in the sun.  It blows out the highlights and amps the contrast way up unless you use a fill-in flash on your subject.  Which I didn’t, since I don’t have an off camera flash or even one that can bounce light when you angle it.  That’s on the list of things to get, but somehow lenses are more enticing, since I don’t usually need a flash in most situations.

Still, when all is said and done, it’s a really cute snapshot that’s easy to understand – Corbin “made” a snow angel (he had assistance, of course) in his first snow.  And he’s happy about it.  Cute!  And I have to say, one thing did work out very well: shooting snow in angled sunlight makes it look much more textured.  Something to remember for future shots, although the sun makes very rare appearances here during the snowy season.

Early Snow

I usually don’t tweak things like this, and to be totally honest, I didn’t tweak it that much.  Still, I usually say that my photos are lightly edited, so I guess I should explain what I did here.

We had a lovely, messy snow in the last few days of October up here in NY.  It didn’t stick to anything hard, but when we got up that morning, anything green was covered with a dusting of snow.  It even lasted most of the day, but I managed to grab a few shots when the morning sun was shining on my back yard.  Given that it’s autumn, the leaves were already a nice rusty color that looked wonderful when the sun was on it.  I wanted to emphasize the color of the leaves more than the initial shot did, so I ended up tweaking it in post (production.)

Now, I could say that I dropped it into Photoshop and did some fancy number with filters and color channels.  Nothing that interesting, sadly.  All I did was tweak the white balance a bit to give it a slightly warmer cast.  It’s pretty obvious that I didn’t tweak it that far because the snow still looks white.  I guess if I really wanted to do things the hard way, I could have slapped some sort of filter on the camera lens itself.

Funnily enough, I didn’t notice until I edited the shot that there’s a water drop on the leaf tip.  Which explains why it’s out of focus.

For those of you who follow this blog, thank you for your patience.  I won’t go into details, but my son has given us a few scares and we still don’t know exactly what’s going on.  We’re praying for the best and still looking for answers.  Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers!

Full of excuses


That’s what I was today.  Corbin and I went out for a quick run to Indian Ladder Farms after the rain stopped.  On the way there, we passed something that caught my eye, and I debated turning the car around and getting the camera out.  I had plenty of excuses: the baby is asleep, it might start raining again, I really don’t want to turn around and go back, it wasn’t that great of a possibility, it’s just too much effort, and so on.  I’m sad to say that I didn’t stop and get the camera out, despite my creative side nudging me to do so.

After we got to the farm and did a quick photo shoot in the pumpkin patch – he’s soooo darn cute!  we bought our cider, farm fresh brown eggs, and headed out to see the chickens and the goats before we left.  Since the baby was in a decent mood – no screaming – I backtracked in hopes of seeing what caught my eye again.  Hit the brakes, turn on the flashers, grab the camera, and go shoot for a few minutes while keeping a weather eye out on the baby.   A very nice gentleman slowed down and asked if everything was ok: I’m proud to announce that chivalry still exists, albeit conveyed by a pickup truck instead of a white horse.


It might not be the best photograph in the world, but I’m happy that I caught it.  I made time for creativity today and I’m the better for it.   (Note: next time, creativity needs to prompt me to clean up the shot by removing protruding sticks and stones.)

Weeds examined: violets

I seem to be photographing a lot of flowers lately – more so than usual.  I blame spring.  All sorts of lovely surprises are popping up in my own little back yard that grab my attention and demand a photo session.  Of course, being 37 weeks pregnant makes photographing these treasures a lot more enticing.  They stand still and I can prop them up to eye level – no bending over, which by now is pretty much impossible for me. 

That said, violets are one of the first harbingers of spring in my yard.  They hide in the grass that’s slowly turning green and starting to grow again.  I didn’t plant these, despite how much I love them – they’re purely volunteers.  Funnily enough, although violets are more of a shade plant these grow quite happily in the middle of the yard with the full sun beating down on them.   

It’s funny how the little things bring back memories.  These tiny violets remind me of my childhood – a time when I knew where the wild yellow violets bloomed down by the creek, and where to find the rare solitary trillium and clumps of bloodroot and wild dwarf iris.  I made little pilgrimages every spring to see them bloom, a tradition I kept as I grew into a teenager and went for walks when I needed privacy (a big deal when you’re a teen with an older brother and younger sister.)  To this day, I can tell you where to find those same spots, although I have no idea if the flowers are still there.

One of those violet memories brings back the sense of pure discovery and delight – if you’ve ever seen the seed pods of a violet you would understand what I’m talking about.  They look something like a tricorne hat – a three-petaled rounded pod that contains hundreds of tiny poppy-like seeds.  The pods pop  when they’re dry, sending seeds shooting into the air like a gun.  No wonder the things spread so easily!

As much as I keep trying to photograph these violets, I’ve decided that they’re just too awkward of a flower to photograph well.  I’ve already discovered that the images don’t translate well to cyanotype – the texture of the petals just doesn’t work.  But, despite my pitiful attempts, I can still show you guys the tiny details that make me love the flowers: the exquisite purple lines leading into the throat of the flower, the tiny petals, and the wonderful furry throat that bees love to investigate.  It’s a weed – and it’s lovely.

It’s official: spring is here to stay

It seems that spring has truly arrived here.  I could be wrong and we’ll get a massive snowstorm in the next week, but the weather has turned mild, thankfully. 

The birds are singing at 4:00am today (don’t ask why I know this) and the trees are showing a nice haze of green.  I think we’ve had more than our fair share of rain this month, so when the sun came out I grabbed the chance to capture a daffodil in my backyard.  They’re hardier than they look – this one held up through a few cold nights and kept blooming despite the possibility of frost a few days ago. 

Happy spring everyone!

Selective coloring

There’s this little trend in photography that’s been going on for a while now – selective coloring – and I keep hoping that it will die a decent death and quit appearing.  In a nutshell, selective coloring is adding a color to one portion of a monochrome photograph.  Supposedly this brings attention to the colored bit – usually the subject’s eyes, or a lone vase or something. 

I’ll admit, I’m a snob.  I hate selective coloring. 

Used well, it can be effective.  Used poorly or too often and it’s corny or cliché.  I guess I put selective coloring in the same category as excessive borders, overcooked HDR images, and super high contrast monochrome: it’s not a professional look.  In my opinion, it’s not professional because it takes a trick to do what the image should do by itself (i.e. draw attention to the subject by framing and composition.)

More specifically, it’s a fad.  20 years down the road it will date your images.  Not good if you want timeless memories or some other tired phrase that wedding photographers use a lot.  It used to be that you could only add color to a black and white image if you had the skills to basically paint on the image.  It wasn’t done often, and it was usually pretty subtle.  Today, thanks to digital, it’s easily done.   And it’s used a lot.

So it’s pretty ironic that I like this shot (revisited the plums before they got all wrinkled and eaten) even though it looks, superficially, like a selective color image.  It’s not.  It’s a piece of fruit shot on a black backdrop:  my oh-so-impressive setup of window light and a piece of black paper.  Go figure.