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.

Meet Anarah



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



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. 


Moving on

We’re headed out!  We’re finally going to Washington DC, and I won’t be able to post for a while (like I’ve been posting all that much!) because my computer will be in storage until the housing situation is finalized.  Life has been hectic lately with illness, move details, and house hunting.  I always seem to have some excuse or another.

I’m going to miss living in NY – we’ve been here long enough to put down roots.  Pulling up those roots always hurts, even though we’re excited to see what’s in store for us in DC.  Hopefully a new house without issues, a dog for Corbin, and a lovely new back yard for both Corbin and dog.  We’ll see!

So even though this image is symbolic and all that conceptual jazz, I have to say it’s from our recent trip to Long Island NY.  It’s the lighthouse passage from the tiny stone house nestled at its foot to the entrance of the lighthouse itself.  Because it was super hot and Corbin wasn’t allowed up the lighthouse stairs on the tour, that’s as far as we went.  And, I have to say, my new lens is awesome!  Let’s hear it for wide angles!
Hopefully my next post will be full of DC iconic images  – so much history there.  I’m super excited to try and catch the DC cherry trees in flower next spring.  Here’s hoping for the best!


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?

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.

Crossing the line


Sometimes I write posts because I posted a photograph and I wanted to discuss something about the image.  Other times, I write because something has been stewing for a while and finally comes out.  This is one of those posts.


There’s a subtle form of discrimination going on against male photographers.  Picture this situation:

You’ve taken your child to the toddler park and they’ve happily roared into the mass of children running around madly and having fun.  Parents mill around keeping a watchful eye on both their kids and other children interacting with them.  Strollers litter the playground, and every bench is occupied by a weary mom or dad.  With one exception.

There’s an older guy sitting on the bench in front of you.  He has a camera bag slung on his back, and he’s dressed for comfort in tennis shoes, a t shirt, and somewhat sloppy jeans.  He looks fairly ordinary and nonthreatening, and he doesn’t interact with anyone around him.  The only threatening thing about him is the fairly large camera he’s holding.  Every so often he lifts the camera and takes a few pictures, and in a little while, he moves over to the fence around the playground and stands there changing out a lens.  After a while, he drifts over to another bench, still taking pictures.  The next time you look in his direction he’s gone.

What do you automatically think?

Do you assume he’s a doting grandfather or uncle, or a predator?


This happened at one of our playground visits recently, and I have to admit, I kept a very watchful eye on the guy.  I never saw him  interact with anyone, either adult or child, and he didn’t seem to focus on any particular child the way you would if you were taking pictures of your child playing.  As far as I know, no one confronted him, although I saw several dads also keeping an eye on him.  It was a slightly creepy experience and a scary reminder that even at the playground, your child might not be safe.

I do try not to assume, because I had a classmate in college who had a very bad experience in a similar situation.  He was a serious, slightly older student who put a lot of time into his work and really tried to go beyond the assignments our instructor gave us.  He wasn’t a father, but he had a 9-10 year old niece that he absolutely adored.  Not surprisingly, she was his subject for quite a few projects – I suspect a lot of his images made it into her mom’s family album because he was a great photographer.

One assignment on portraits was perfect for the little girl, and he decided to take his niece to the playground.  She loved the park, and he had taken her there before and thought it would be a perfect place to get some action portraits of her.   While they were there, someone, an unknown mom, called the police.  The police questioned him and his niece and generally made the visit an unpleasant one with a few nasty assumptions.

He came into the next class and told us what happened, visibly upset over the discrimination he experienced.  At the time, I had a nagging thought that I didn’t express, but after experiencing something similar as a mom I finally clarified that thought: whomever called the police wasn’t meddling.  He should have been delighted that someone cared enough about a little girl they had never met to make sure she was safe.  What if she had been with someone else?  Wouldn’t he have wanted someone to call the police?

At the time, he was incensed that the only reason the police came was because he was male.  If he had been a female photographer no one would have thought anything about it.

There’s a reason for that.  How many female pedophiles have you heard of? I know they’re out there, but the vast majority of pedophiles in the news are male.  Add that to the visual nature of men and you have a nasty discrimination against male photographers.

And while I might ruffle some feathers here, I would much rather someone call the police if they’re worried about the safety of my child than worry about discrimination against some random guy.  Sorry guys.  Gender barriers suck, don’t they?



The best camera…


is the one you have with you (or so someone once said that has been quoted over and over and I’m too lazy to look up the source.)

I’m seriously loopy tonight, so bear with me.  A bad case of strep throat and an infant with a double ear infection isn’t showing off my dying neurons to their best ability.



For  a while now, we’ve been meaning to upgrade our phones.  What we had was more than sufficient for our needs, but we knew our needs were going to be changing.  So, we waited until we knew exactly what the specifics were before we went out and upgraded.  I am the lucky beneficiary of my husband’s work needs – we now have smart phones, 4G, and unlimited texting that I’ve been putting to the test.  Yup, I know.  We were SO far behind the times it was sad.  Whatever.

Now, specifically, our previous phones had cameras.  Sort of.  They were  really pathetic cameras and I laughed at the file size after playing around with it.  After that, I resolved to use our infinitely better Canon for all our photo needs.  And really, I didn’t truly need a phone camera that did a great job anyway.

Now, I’ve always kept an eye out on the growing Iphone photography genre.  It fascinates me what a basic camera and a few fancy apps can do to an image – and some of them are quite lovely.  A lot of good photographers out there are producing gorgeous photographs with just their phones.  And as long as you’re viewing the image on something like…the phone….the image is super duper awesome.  Problem is, as soon as you pop it onto a computer or try to print it out you run into the problem of file size.  Yup, tiny files, relatively speaking.

Nine times out of ten though, who cares?  Most of the images I take with my phone will never go larger than a 4×6 if they get that far.  And I have to admit, having a simple camera (with a flash) that I can whip out of my pocket and capture spur of the moment images with is a handy thing.

Like this one.  Thanks to a very gracious floral employee at our favorite grocery store, Corbin got to experience his first balloon.  I know, I’m depriving the kid.  He didn’t get his first balloon until he was 8 months old.  It simply didn’t occur to me that he might actually like to have a balloon, since I’ve never been all that fond of them myself.  Unlike bubbles, which he first  experienced when he was old enough to move into the big bathtub (so we could avoid a huge mess.)  Incidentally, he loves both – bubbles and bathtub.

Corbin wasn’t sure what to think of this balloon thing.  It floated, and it followed him around the store the whole time we shopped.  By the time we checked out he had decided it was a good thing to have around, and he talked to it as it bobbed around the back of the car on the way home.  Daddy got him some fancy mylar balloons for Valentine’s Day and Corbin discovered the joys of balloon kickboxing.  We sure got a lot of wiggles out of that child doing that.  Gave him a good workout!

So.  Good images aside (poor lighting here, with a deplorable noise situation still produced a decent image with even a hint of balloon movement) what’s the scoop on phone cameras?  I was once asked how many megapixels my camera had, and when I replied with the number, the guy said in a pitying tone, “my phone has more than that camera does!”  And I thought (but didn’t say) “uh huh, but how big is the sensor to capture those pixels?”  Because when you’re talking size, that’s what really matters.  Not the number of megapixels (although that’s important too) but the size of the sensor.  Not surprisingly, the more expensive and “professional” the camera, the bigger the sensor.

Here’s why:  that sensor is what captures the information.  I’m a little fuzzy on the technical size of things, but I do know that when you’re talking images, the more information, the better.  You can always edit down the info but you can’t add it back.  Which, in a nutshell, is why I hate jpg files – they compress the image which loses little bits of information here and there.

I would absolutely love to have a digital back to go on my large format camera.  Imagine a digital sensor the size of 4×5 film.  I’m in awe.  That’s what you see a lot of the serious studio photographers using, and if you’re ever bored enough to watch America’s Next Top Model (I watched pre-baby for some light-hearted fun – ostensibly photography research for the the photo shoots) you’ll see quite a few of the studio shoots are done with a large format camera tethered to a computer.  I can’t even imagine the size hard drive you would need to store some of those images!

Not surprisingly, a digital back is massively expensive.  Perhaps someday.  For now, I’m happily taking quite a few decent baby pics with my small, portable phone.  Things like Corbin’s first carousel ride, having his first egg (scrambled, he loved it) and catching that oh-so-cute face smiling.  Which is a very difficult thing to do, I’ll have you know.  The important photo shoots are still done with our trusty Canon for good quality images that I can tweak, but the random snapshots?  The phone, and its 8 megapixel glory work quite well.


Note: I absolutely forgot to do any editing to this image.  What you see is straight from the phone.  Not too bad, right?


The new lens

At my age, birthdays are only good for one thing.  I’m certainly past the point where another year older brings exciting new privileges like drinking or driving.  In fact, I’m starting to dread birthdays, so my birthday gift this year helped sweeten the deal a little.  I’ve been grumbling about a wide angle lens for a while now, and Corbin went out and bought me one (with a little help from daddy, I’m sure.)  It’s a lovely 18-55mm zoom, which makes taking certain shots a whole heck of a lot easier.  It’s a cool new toy, to be sure.

Corbin and I went to the park to test it out, and I have to say, shooting a baby is MUCH easier with a wide angle.  I’m close enough to grab him if he starts doing something like trying to fall off a park bench or eating a handful of dirt – both of which he did while we were there.  So far I’m really truly pleased with it, and while I know I’m limiting its potential a little by doing baby shots, I’m sure I’ll find lots of cool things to shoot with it.

I tested it out a bit on the pond at the park when the sun was getting lower.  Despite the crud that people have been flinging on the ice, the pond is lovely in the light.  What is it about ice that brings out the worst in us?  Either we act really really stupid (try to walk on it) or we dirty it up with stuff just to “see how it slides.”  Bleh.

Are there such things as sun trails?  I know you call the light the moon leaves on the water a moon trail, but I’m not sure what you call this.  It certainly captured my attention, and I messed around with different exposures trying to get the ripples of light on the ice while not totally blowing the sky out at the same time.  The key was to block the low, bright sun with a tree branch and expose for the ice.  Which totally lost any detail I had on the tree, but who cares, it’s just a boring tree.  It’s not even a grown up tree – it’s one that’s caged with a little mesh to keep it from escaping until it settles in and resigns itself to the new, mediocre location. Cool berries though, so definitely points for trying.

What is it about the camera that brings out the stupid in people?  As soon as I pull out my camera someone invariably has to comment on something – most usually the size.  This guy was at least a little original: he asked if I was photographing the old rusted fountain in the pond with an air of disbelief.  Another day when it wasn’t so cold and I didn’t have a fussy baby with me I might have tried to point out the wonderful light, but as it was, I just smiled and told him I was testing a new lens.  It’s people like that that make me second guess myself a lot.  He obviously couldn’t see anything worth photographing, and he couldn’t understand why I was bothering.

I did try this shot in pure black and white, but it lost a little something that made it interesting.

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.