So, the other night we went to visit Joel's parents, but left Sophie here with my parents because she was running a fever and wanting to sleep. When we came home she had just barely fallen asleep and had apparently spent the rest of the time watching CNN with my mom and dad.
The majority of the news coverage was about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, so her picture was up on the screen quite a bit.
And every time Sophia saw it she got really excited, pointed at it and said, "Mama!"
I witnessed this the next day while the news was on. And so I looked more closely, and I guess I can see where she sees a resemblance.
And if that is indeed the case, I'd better stay away from Pakistan for a while.
Monday, December 31, 2007
So, the other night we went to visit Joel's parents, but left Sophie here with my parents because she was running a fever and wanting to sleep. When we came home she had just barely fallen asleep and had apparently spent the rest of the time watching CNN with my mom and dad.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
We had a wonderful Christmas, and the last day and a half have been spent doing some major cleaning and organizing in the Neves household. This includes throwing away a whole bag full of broken toys and holey jeans without the girls' knowledge. They would freak out if they knew what was in that bag, but won't miss anything otherwise.
Today we are off to visit grandparents up north and plan on staying for a week. I'll update more with photos of Christmas and such next week.
Hope your vacation (if you still have one....that is certainly a nice thing about being married to a school teacher!) is (or was) wonderful!!!
Monday, December 24, 2007
There are two Christmas traditions that have evolved in our family that I just love for some reason. It's probably a girl thing, since they both involve clothing.
The first one is picking out Christmas dresses for the girls. I'll never forget how I bought Bria's when I was still pregnant with her (she was born in October) because I loved it so much. Seven years later, I'm a little obsessed with finding dresses that at least sort of match now that I've got three little girls. And I love the Sunday before Christmas because they all wear them.
The second one is the Christmas Eve pajamas. The kids always need new pjs around this time of year anyway and it is so fun to watch them open their one gift on Christmas Eve because it so effectively starts the excitement for Christmas morning.
I thought I would share a few photos of these traditions through the years:
This is Bria's first Christmas, 2000. She was 2 months old and tiny and that is the dress I fell in love with. And the hat. I adore the hat. My other two have always been too old by their first Christmas to wear that hat, but I did have Sophie wear the dress last year a few times.
Christmas Eve 2001. Bria's dress this year, complete with patent leather Mary Janes and a matching headband, was from Osh Kosh. All of it. Wasn't she just adorable?
Christmas morning 2001. Those were Bria's first Christmas pjs as that was the year we actually began the tradition. She couldn't believe we were actually going to let her touch the gifts after nearly a month of being told no. Christmas morning 2002. Bria was so grumpy that morning! Here she is in my lap wearing her Christmas pjs after just having opened her stocking. You can see the box of tic tacs she's holding in her hand...we gave her those because my dad always had them and she was constantly asking him for them. I was about 7 months pregnant with Chloe here...you can see the IV line on my right arm. I can't find a picture of her Christmas dress that year, but it was green velvet with white lace.
Christmas morning 2003, at my parents' house. This was our first year in Arizona and we were dirt poor. No Christmas jammies this year...Bria actually wore the same ones from the previous year and my mom had just happened to buy Chloe a pair that were very similar, so I was happy about that. No dresses either, they both wore hand me downs. Bria did get the hula hoop from Santa she'd been asking for for months, but she couldn't use it right away since she broke her foot on Christmas Eve jumping down the stairs...look closely and you'll see her cast. Christmas 2004: our family picture which I sent out with Christmas cards. I got the girls velveteen dresses for their holiday dresses that year. Bria's was black and I loved the sleeves on it, and Chloe's was a more traditional maroon. Their jammies in 2004 were not Christmas themed...I couldn't find any I liked, so we just went with normal footie sleepers. This picture was taken with Joel's grandparents on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve 2005. I had just found out I was pregnant with Sophia in early December, and by Christmas I was super sick. Joel even has video of me running to the toilet on Christmas morning. It is basically amazing I even got my camera out to take this picuture of them in their pajamas! My favorite part of this photo is the random necklace hanging on the tree. I found all sorts of things like that on the tree that year...they wanted to help it look pretty.This was our Christmas Card in 2005 (thanks Hilary!) and the pictures of the girls feature their Christmas dresses. It was the first year they wore identical dresses, and it's pretty much been that way since...all two Christmases we've had since then. Christmas dresses 2006...Sophie's first. All identical maroon taffeta decorated with little pearls. The photo is black and white because I ran out of color film...yet another reason to be glad I switched to digital!Christmas Eve 2006, in Seattle at my brother's house. They aren't even looking at my camera since 2 other people were taking pictures, but this is the only one I have in which Sophia is not screaming. She was obviously not fond of doing the annual pj picture under the tree! So we'll settle here for her eating a bow and the older two looking somewhere else.
And the moment you've been waiting for: Christmas dresses version 2007. Bria and Chloe have identical dresses, but I couldn't find the exact dress for Sophie, so I found something similar enough. Aren't they gorgeous?
As for this year's PJ's, they're still safely wrapped up under the tree. Perhaps I'll edit this entry later with a picture, but for now, you'll have to do without.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I found out what Beauty Cuties are. They are those doll heads that come with lots of hair accessories and combs and brushes and scissors. You can style and cut their hair, and it will even grow after you have cut it apparently. Very cool. But none of my children will be receiving one of these things this year.
They do love to play "beauty salon," though. I mean, they are girls after all. They don't love me to brush and do their hair for them in the morning, but when they are playing this game they love to do each other's hair in crazy concoctions, they love to use all the styling products we have and they especially like to see who can use the most hair pretties in the other's hair.
Even Sophie loves to get in on the action. She will often bring me barrettes and things and the spray bottle and ask me to do her hair, Then she goes around the house taking out the barrettes because she is so enthralled with her prettiness. Then she comes back to have me do it again. A never ending cycle. But a cute one. Just in the last few months her hair has finally grown long enough for me to put it in a little pony tail on the top of her head.
Yesterday, Chloe asked if she could do Sophie's hair, and I said that would be fine. I could hear them happily playing in the bathroom and when Chloe came out to show me how cute Sophia looked I ooohed and ahhhed over her gel spiked hair and then went about my business.
A couple hours later I went into the bathroom to clean up a little. All of the combs and brushes were in the bathtub, and I figured Sophie probably threw them in there as that is something she enjoys doing. But then I found chunks of hair in there as well. Sophie has much blonder hair than my other two and so I knew immediately these locks belonged to her. I quickly ran to get her and examine her head. Sure enough, all those places that were finally longish were gone. Totally cut off....all 3-4 inches of it, some of it all the way down to the scalp. She was even missing a couple spots in her bangs too. No more pony tails for this baby.
I called for Chloe and tried not to be upset with her, but I was. She at first denied it, but then she fessed up. I asked her why she did this and she said she wanted to pretend she was at the beauty salon giving Sophie a haircut. I told her it most certainly wasn't a pretend haircut, it was very real and she was going to have to do a lot of jobs to make up for it, and that she wasn't allowed to use scissors for the rest of her life.
The saddest thing about it, is that I don't think I have a single picture of Sophie in her cute little pony tail. Even though she loved to have them, she didn't keep them in very long. I'm going to have to search through all my pictures and hope that there's one there, and if there isn't, I'm going to have a really good cry.
And that is why Chloe will not be getting a Beauty Cutie under the tree...
...not that she was going to in the first place.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Okay, so I almost forgot that I said Thursday would be photography day, but I did remember before midnight, so all is well.
The first time I ever read anything about catchlights, (it was a layout by Cathy Zielske in the 2002 Scrapbooking Hall of Fame book entitled "Catchlights") a whole new world of photography opened up to me. Ever since that moment I have worked to perfect it, and now it comes fairly naturally to me.
First, let's define the word. Catchlights are the spots of light that are literally "caught" by the eye: a reflection of the light source or a reflective surface such as water or snow. Catchlights make the eyes look alive and make a significant aesthetic difference between okay and really great photography, especially when it comes to portraiture. When there are no catchlights, the eyes, and therefore the subject, look somewhat dead and uninteresting. In fact, I recently read that cinematographers edit out the catchlights of evil characters to make them seem even more horrible than they already are.
Taking pictures with a flash provides automatic catchlights, but they are generally a boring, round pinpoint of light. In contrast, the catchlights that natural light is capable of providing elicit much stronger emotion and beauty. So, again, please turn off your flashes and start experimenting with some of your other settings!
For me, getting great catchlights is as simple as paying attention to my subject's eyes and moving them around until I get the look that I want. I often take pictures next to windows (the photo of Chloe above is taken in my living room near the sliding glass door) and get superb catchlights that way.
For catchlights in outdoor photography, the trick is to keep your subject in the shade, but turned toward the light (late afternoon sun is best), so that you get beautiful sparkly eyes, but no harsh shadows. Sometimes I even create the shade for my subject with my own shadow, as in this picture of Bria:
Even though I blocked most of the sun from glaring on her, her eyes were still able to pick up the reflection of the sun, providing some beautiful catchlights.
This picture of Sophia was taken while she was still in the car, but the door was open. She was therefore still in the "shade," while her eyes still reflected the light coming in from outside. In this case, you can also see my reflection too! An open garage is a good place to find automatic shade while still getting good light. I like to set my backdrop up inside the garage and take pictures in there. Here is a picture of my mom that was taken in my garage. You can see the gorgeous catchlights this setup provided. Finally, there is one caveat with catchlights, and that applies to people who wear glasses. I deal with this often with both Bria and Joel. Here is an example of how light that normally gives wonderful catchlights (in this case the garage) can affect those of us wearing specs: You can see that Chloe's eyes are nice and sparkling, while you can hardly see Bria's due to the glare from her glasses. (We won't talk about the strange expression on her face.) The trick to avoid this problem is to position the glasses at a downward angle on the face. I generally have her lift her earpieces slightly so the lenses are facing down. It looks (and feels) funny, but only if you're looking super close. In most photos I have taken this way you can't even tell that the glasses are at an odd angle, and most importantly, they do not glare. Here is the best example I could find that was on my computer (I was too lazy to go through all my discs of saved pictures for better examples): The picture was taken near a window without a flash, with the magic glasses positioning technique. I didn't get the most wonderful of catchlights, but they are there, which is better than none at all. The other option with glasses is to take them off, but I always think it's nice to have some with and some without, since it's something that is part of the person's every day life.
The farther away you are from your subject, the less catchlights matter. Also, if there are more than two or three people in a photo it is difficult to get them, mostly because you become further away from the subjects. Remember, the most important thing is to just start noticing how the light affects your subject's eyes, and look for things that can cause catchlights. You can use a reflector, car bumpers, water, snow or the sun itself and even wearing a white shirt as a photographer can help.
ETA: Anne-Marie mentioned that it was harder with a point and shoot to get catchlights. It shouldn't be, except in very low light situations. Catchlights have absolutely nothing to do with the camera and everything to do with the way light hits your subject, so just start being aware of it. If you have more than one focus point to choose from on your camera (I have 9) try to focus on the eyes to make the catchlights more clear (and a better overall picture), but even the delay that comes with digital point and shoots shouldn't cause issues with catchlights.
Check out my photography blog for other examples, and have fun getting beautiful catchlights!
Joel offered to take the girls to their respective schools this morning so I could stay home and help my mom get ready to leave.
We were, as usual, running late. As we were trying to herd the children out the door, while simultaneously dressing them in their warm coats, Joel said:
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Today Bria had her 2nd grade Christmas singing program. After it was done we (me, Chloe, Sophie and my mom who is down visiting) walked her back to her classroom and Mrs. Mitchell asked my mom to read a holiday story to the class, which totally made Bria's whole day (not to mention Chloe's, who got to sit next to her sister on the reading rug).
I noticed a bunch of letters to Santa posted on the wall, so I hunted for Bria's and was surprised by what I found. Many things made that list that I never heard of, or at least, never heard of Bria wanting them. Things like her own TV (fat chance!), Beauty Cuties (I don't know what on earth these are, and therefore, neither does Santa) and a Christmas bell (easy enough).
Luckily, there were a few things on that list that either Santa, Joel & I, or Mamah will be bringing. Things like a High School Musical 2 DVD and an Island Princess Barbie.
However, the most shocking thing on the list was a fake "mushtash." When I asked her about it later, she laughed and said she meant fake hair....like those pony tail holders you put in that look like your real hair...and then I breathed a sigh of relief.
Monday, December 17, 2007
So, I give you a Christmas meme that has been going around. If only because I haven't been feeling the joy of the season so much yet and we have one week before Christmas Eve. Pathetic. I will even post it in red and green to make myself feel that much more festive. Enjoy!
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? For the most part, I do traditional wrapping paper. In the past it's always been plain metallic red or gold, but I got sick of that this year and bought some super cute stuff from Target. It doesn't match my tree, but hey, it's adorable. I use gift bags for a few presents, but hello? That makes it way too easy for kids to peek.
2. Real tree or artificial? Totally fake. My mom and I got up early on Black Friday to get it for a killer deal the first Christmas I was married. It still looks wonderful, and I still love it. Aside from that one Christmas in Arizona where we figured out that we left the tree pole in my parents' basement in Utah when we moved, it's served us well.
3. When do you put up the tree? The goal is the day after Thanksgiving. This year was the first time I did not make that goal because we were out of town for Thanksgiving. Crazy that we've never been gone that weekend before!
4. When do you take the tree down? The goal is New Year's Day. The only time I didn't make that goal was when I was newly pregnant with Sophia. I was so sick that I couldn't do it. The tree stayed up till March when my mom came down to Arizona and did it for me. And if you're wondering why Joel didn't do it, well, he was working on his dissertation and trying to deal with a wife that was basically dying....who has time to deal with Christmas decorations?
5. Do you like eggnog? Blech.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? It was the year Cabbage Patch Kids had come out and I wanted one so badly. Unfortunately, not only were they almost impossible to get, they were quite expensive and my dad had been laid off of his job that year. So, my mom had bought a fake CPK, withouth the hard head, and totally handmade. My best friend across the street also got a handmade version and we played with them all the time. I named mine Leesa (yes, apparently I was into unique names even as a 7 year old). I still have her, in fact. She lives on Chloe's bed.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Quite a few, actually. I only put two out this year, my Precious Moments set and my Willow Tree set. Neither are actually complete, but sometimes I get new pieces under the tree.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My dad. Even when I was a kid he could never think of anything he wanted when asked. Seems I always got him new socks. Now, I get my parents a gift together and it is generally geared more to my mother. Oh, and it seems Bria is extremely hard to buy for this year. :)
9. Easiest person to buy for? Probably Joel. Not only easy, but fun too, because he gets very excited about his gifts when he opens them (if he loves them, and I am pretty good at picking surprising things that he also loves).
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever got? Hmmm...I'm sure I've received my share of not so great gifts, but I don't really remember them. I'm sure it was probably a totally uncool article of clothing I received from a grandparent during my teenage hafta look cool years. And even then, it shouldn't count because I'm sure it wasn't as bad as I imagined it to be. I know I took several items of clothing that my parents bought me back to the store during those same years.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I mail them. It's the only thing I do to keep in touch with people throughout the year. Sad, but true. I am surprised at the amount of email cards I have already received this year. Wonder what Miss Manners has to say about that? It's certainly cheaper and less work. However, I so love getting Christmas cards in the mail at this time of year that I'm sure everyone else feels the same way. That is why I send cards.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It's a Wonderful Life.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually the day after Thanksgiving. I really would like to get my act together enough to get it started much earlier than that, though. Like July would be nice.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I've definitely recycled gifts before, but it's hard to say if they were actually Christmas gifts or not. For instance, I just gave my niece a picture frame for Christmas that I won at a baby shower.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I shouldn't answer this question due to the sabotage it will inflict on my diet. But, it's probably fudge or peppermint brittle.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear. I am not in love with the look of multicolored, but I would do all one color. Like an all red lit tree would be gorgeous, don't you think?
17. Favorite Christmas song? Probably "Oh Holy Night" and I'm sad because this is the first year in over a decade that I have not been asked to sing it somewhere. I will have to just sing it to my kids on Chrstimas Eve. Sigh.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Two of the three years we lived in Arizona we came up to Utah for Christmas. The other one I was too sick (pregnant) to go anywhere. We went up to Seattle last year but this year we are sticking around here for Christmas and going up to Provo for New Year's. I think I am done with the hauling gifts back and forth thing. I remember one year driving back to Phoenix our poor little car was so loaded down the girls could hardly move, the trunk was filled to capacity and I held a painting on my lap the entire way! Hoping to avoid that as much as possible in the future...besides, the thought of waking up to Santa gifts in our own house with our own little family is just wonderful.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Sure can: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (or Donner, depending on if you're going by Rudolph or the Night Before Christmas) and Blitzen. And then there's Rudolph, of course.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? It's an angel. But the year we didn't have our normal tree we had to settle for a bow because the replacement tree was too small to hold her.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? On Christmas Eve one gift is opened and it is always Christmas pajamas. Christmas morning the kids can look at their stockings and their Santa gifts right when they get up and then we will eat breakfast and open the presents under the tree a bit later.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The commercialism. Losing sight of why we do this in the first place.
23. What do you love most about Christmas? I love deciding what each person on my list would just love and doing all I can to give them a wonderful gift. That is truly what gets me in the mood for Christmas the most. Also love the Christmas music.
Posted by Lara at 12:36 PM
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Baby Center announced its top ten lists in baby naming 2007 this past week. I am not happy. Sophia has now overtaken Emma as the number one girl name in America. And since we all know just how long Emma held the title (3 years, with another several years in the top ten), I can only assume that my baby, who I hoped had been named somewhat uniquely, will have a million other Sophias in her Kindergarten class.
Joel and I were disappointed enough when the list came out last year, 5 months after she was born. Sophia was in the top ten. Number seven to be exact. I had been a bit worried because after we named her we kept hearing, "oh, my [insert relationship here] named her baby that." On the other hand, when we named Chloe, we knew her name was in the top 30, but we have such a struggle with girl names (seriously, we have so many wonderful boy names picked out) that there really wasn't another choice. Her name has climbed steadily the past five years, but still hasn't made the top ten list.
Bria has been the only one of our chosen names that has remained totally unique. As far as I know, her name hasn't even broken the top 500 list. She loves that there is never another Bria in her classes at school and church, and that everyone tells her what a pretty name she has. She does have problems getting called Brianna or Brianne (since those names have most definitely had their stint in the top ten), but she's cool with it, and she adores her name.
So, why do I even care? Why does it irk me so much that I've chosen popular names for my kids? It might have something to do with having a fairly unique name myself, and being quite proud of that fact. Lara enjoyed a slight surge in popularity in the late 60s and early 70s because of Dr. Zhivago, but it was still only #360 on the list the year I was born. My middle name, although an alternate spelling of a top ten name, was #472.
But, the fact is: Popular or not, I love the names I chose for my girls. Not only do I love them, but Joel loves them too. And if you only knew the incredible discussion and deal-making and begging and pleading that went into the actual choosing of the last two names, you would tell me to shut up already, because do I really want to go through that again?
Besides, their names suit them perfectly.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
You've been on pins and needles, I know.
I'm saving a few questions to do separate entries on later. I'm thinking Thursday is pretty much going to be photography day for a while. And, without further ado, your questions and my answers:
Where do you have your prints developed?
For my everyday pictures that will be put in scrapbooks (or more likely kept in boxes with the amount of scrapbooking I’ve not been doing lately), I use Winkflash. Their every day prices are pretty darn good, and I’m happy with the job that they do. I am not a fan of glossy pictures, so I make sure to choose the matte option. I’ve never been more unhappy than when I forgot to click matte on a huge order...okay, so maybe I have, but glossy pictures rank right up there with bad hair days. I also really love their Transporter, it is an easy way to upload your pictures to their site. You just drag them into the transporter and then click upload. I have had 200 pictures go in at once and it's nice because you can just let it do its thing all night and you're ready to place your order in the morning.
If I am planning on framing and want quality prints with professional finishes I use Mpix. I love how well they turn out, and the prices are decent. You can even get metallic paper which looks really beautiful on certain types of pictures.
How do you deal with low light situations when you don’t want to use a flash?
If you do not want the harsh shadows and washed out look of a flash, the most important thing to remember in a low light situation is that you cannot shoot in auto. Your camera will always insist on the flash and you will be stuck. Repeat after me: Do. Not. Shoot. In. Auto.
The second most important thing to remember is to choose a high ISO.
After that, shoot in aperture priority. Make sure your aperture is as wide open as it can possibly be. If you have a point and shoot, you’ll need to check your camera’s instruction manual to find out what that is and how to change it, but it will be the lowest number.
If you have a dSLR, choose a lens that has the widest aperture. I have 2 lenses (and one on the way!), one is an f/4-5.6 which is not so great for the low light, and the other is an f/1.8, which is extremely fast and wonderful for these low light situations..
I actually highly recommend the 50mm f/1.8. You can buy it for both Nikon and Canon and it is a very low cost lens (looking at the prices you may not believe me...but, believe me, this is a cheap lens) that will improve your pictures immensely.
Finally, set yourself up where there is a natural light source, if possible. I take a lot of my portraits right in my living room near the sliding glass door. Works great, even on rainy days.
How do you get it so your kids aren’t killing each other in the photo?
I haven’t figured this one out yet, so let me know when you do. There’s a reason I didn’t do a picture of the three rascals together for the Christmas card this year. Individual portraits make my life easier, thankyouverymuch.
Which program do you use to edit your photos?
I had grand ideas of getting everything perfect in camera when I first went digital, but I quickly learned that photo editing is a necessary evil. And, actually, with film, the lab doesn’t give you your prints straight out of camera. They do a fair amount of color adjusting and such on them before you see the final product. Think of your photo editing program as sort of your digital darkroom, and feel a bit better about using it. Of course, still strive to get everything as perfect as possible in camera and your editing will be so much easier!
At first, I used the software that came with my camera: Canon Digital Photo Professional. It does a pretty good job if you know what the heck to do with it. You can adjust curves, contrast, saturation and sharpen. You can also crop. All the basic things necessary for a photo editor. I still use it to go through my pictures as it is a much faster system than what I have now. I also like the automatic curves adjustments and will often do those there and then open them up in PSE.
Now I have upgraded to Photoshop Elements 5.0. (Adobe has since released a version 6.0.) Joel and I are pretty poor, so this was all I could afford for now. But it does a good job. I can use actions made for PSE in it, make headers, cards and other projects and do plenty of stuff to my photos to make them look awesome.
How do you get rid of the pet-eye in photos? The red eye reduction that is built into the camera doesn’t do it, and neither do the red eye fixes in the photo editors.
Okay, here’s where I got to learn a little something myself. I don’t really have pets, (unless you count my parents’ dog up there in the photo), so I don’t come upon this problem too often.
My first advice is to stay away from the flash in most of your photography. It turns out so much nicer. And, that’s really the only way you’ll completely avoid the red-eye/pet-eye problems. See my answer on low light to begin learning how to put your flash away.
If you can’t possibly photograph your dog or your cat without the flash, and you keep getting the green demon eyed look, then you can download Pet-eye pilot, which is a quick fix for the pet eye issue. Looks like it costs about 30 dollars, which is a kind of pricey investment if you don’t take a million pictures of your pet, so you might want to try looking at this tutorial to learn how to fix it in another program.
Oh, and the picture of Bria and Daisy up there? It was taken in the late afternoon next to a big window in my mom’s house. No flash, aperture priority mode. Aperture set at 2.8.
What do you recommend learning first to a person just starting out in photography?
First and foremost, learn how to use your camera to its fullest capacity! Read your manual a lot. Every day. I’m not joking. It takes a while for the information to really sink in because it does get pretty technical. And it’s digital, so get yourself out of the auto mode and start experimenting! And yes, they do have books that expound upon your manual. Here is one for my camera, and here and here are some for the Canon Powershot (because several of you mentioned this is the camera you have). These types of guides are available for just about every camera out there...the Powershot had a lot of results when I searched in Amazon because there are so many models of it.
Second, learn how to improve your composition. I will do another post all about that soon. Just figuring out how to take a picture from a better angle, how to frame your subject and all that jazz will change your photos drastically for the better.
Third, start to learn the exposure triangle. ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Once you have that all figured out, the stuff in your manual will begin to make sense and you can start making awesome creative choices with your camera. One of the best books I have ever read is “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson. He has a way of talking about exposure that is pretty easy to understand.
Phewsh! That's all for now...have fun with those cameras!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The other day I walked in on Bria and Chloe playing a game together. This, in and of itself is blog worthy, because there was no screaming, arguing, or tattling going on. Bria wasn't even rolling her eyes at her little sister for wanting to play something totally childish like she usually does. Amazing as that was, I was actually more intrigued by what they were playing than I was impressed with how they were playing.
The game was obviously Chloe's idea, as it usually is (she is the leader personality around these parts...often more so than even her parents are, unfortunately). She was telling Bria to play an instrument while she conducted her. Then she'd cut her off and have her pretend to play a different instrument for a while.
Chloe's conducting skills were pretty noteworthy, and I was quite astounded at both Chloe's knowledge of the instrument names and Bria's ability to mime each of them. I heard all of the following instruments:
And they may have used others before I came in.
Yeah, they don't have musicians for parents or anything.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
1. My recital is tonight, and Joel's middle school orchestra concerts are tonight. So, he is taking Bria on a daddy/daughter date to get some dinner and then she gets to sit through all 3 concerts. I am taking Chloe on a mommy/daughter date to get some dinner and then she gets to drive down to St. George with me and sit through my "Lullaby of Broadway" recital. Sophie gets to go play with cousins since she wouldn't be able to sit through anything at this point.
We figure this is the best possible arrangement, since Bria rocks at the violin (Chloe hates it...we're probably changing her to piano in January, which she is much more excited about), and Chloe loves to sing show tunes.
2. My friend Jon is doing a research paper on blogging. He would love it if you would go over to his blog and answer a few questions to help him out with his project: Starmaster's Guide.
3. I'm going to be writing my photography Q & A on Thursday. If you haven't submitted a question yet, hurry!
That is all. Carry on.
Monday, December 10, 2007
My vocal students are having a recital tomorrow night, so for the last couple weeks we've been polishing their music and talking about performance etiquette. One of the things I have tried and tried to drive home to them is that when they forget the words, or sing the wrong words, they need to just pretend that that is exactly how the music was written and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Because, let's face it: unless someone in the audience has either performed the song before or happens to listen to it every night before he goes to bed, people are just not going to notice that a mistake occured.
Needless to say, most of them aren't very good at it. I know it's hard, especially since text memorization is nearly impossible for me. I have certainly had my share of lyric gaffes in my life as a performer, and I didn't always know how to graciously pretend that I totally meant to say the absurd thing you just heard.
Of course, this is slightly easier when singing in a foreign language. At my senior recital I sang a German lied that was like, two hours long. At least it sure seemed that way. It had five very long verses, all sung to the same melody with a slight variation on the final verse. I got hopelessly and completely lost during the performance and made up German like crazy. I'm sure nobody noticed. I also got a bit confused with the lyrics on one of my English songs. I ended up singing the same text twice in a row and caught myself from going to the bridge too early just in the nick of time. Yes, I am the unarguable queen of lyric mishaps.
I remember being in studio class one night in college. As is the procedure, one of the class members was singing for the rest of the students, in order to be critiqued later by the professor. The selection she was performing was "Amarilli, mia Bella," an Italian aria that every vocal major will learn at some point in his or her college career, if they didn't already learn it while in high school. This meant that at least half of us were very familiar with the music and lyrics she was singing.
She got to the part where the lyrics say, "E vedrai scrito in core" and forgot the words. She kept the straightest of faces and instead said, "Pe-eh-pto bi-ih-ismol." I couldn't stop laughing. Neither could several of my classmates. There were, however, a good portion of students who either weren't familiar with the piece (yet), or simply weren't paying attention to her performance. They couldn't figure out why the rest of the class (professor included) was giggling uncontrollably.
I was so impressed with her ability to maintain a poker face and keep right on going, even when the audience was snickering, that I vowed right then and there to never let on when I sang the wrong lyrics, or messed up in any other way. I've done pretty well, too. Case in point: the other night while singing my solo in the choir concert I sang these words:
"Shepherds naked, cold and bare."
I just kept singing, and not one person in the audience that I could see even so much as cracked a smile. Nor did a single fellow choir member mention the mistake. I'm guessing that my huge alteration of the nativity scene didn't register on anyone's radar because they were so mesmerized by the beauty of my voice. I mean, that's the only explanation.
Because it couldn't possibly be that most people don't even pay attention to the lyrics.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Our cell phone bill has been unusually high lately, due to a certain little 16-month old munchkin who is turning out to be a technology whiz. That, coupled with the last fiasco, has encouraged us to make sure the cell phones are far out of Sophie's reach.
In an effort to deter her need to have one of our phones at all times, I bought her a fancy v-tech cellphone a couple weeks ago. It has buttons that beep and play cool music (she likes playing with the ringtones on my phone), has a screen that shows what she's dialed and talks to her (she's very fascinated by the screen) and it even takes pictures. Well, pretend ones that are already programmed into the thing. But she doesn't care: she hears the shutter sound click and sees a photo on the screen and she's thrilled. This toy has basically saved our lives, not to mention our bank account.
But, while she is happy enough with her cool phone, she still likes to play with the real thing if she can ever get her hands on it. We've made this much harder for her recently, but occasionally she finds it (don't forget she is also descended from chimpanzees and there isn't a piece of furniture in this house that she hasn't climbed).
And, apparently, when she does get a hold of it, she makes the most of it. These pictures were sent to my mother from Joel's phone the other night while I was gone for a few minutes. How did she get the phone when we've taken so many precautions lately, you ask?
Seems Daddy was sleeping on the job.
And Chloe was being her usual silly self.
I'm thinking Sophie will make a pretty darn good photographer someday.
Either that, or she'll be inventing cameras herself. Or cell phones.
Friday, December 07, 2007
I have made no secret of the fact that I have been struggling to lose weight since I had Sophie. More accurately, the struggle began after I had Bria, but that is neither here nor there. At one point this past summer I was at an all time high for me and I was very depressed about it. After one of my (many) freak out sessions on the issue, Joel went to the computer to "work" and emerged with a document for me.
In the end, said document made me cry, because he was so sweet. It was a chart for me to keep track of my weightloss for the next several months. Until yesterday, December 6, in fact. I realize that a simple chart is not really tear-worthy, but that's not all it was. If I lost only one pound a week in the allotted time (18 pounds total) I would be allowed to buy the lens I have been wanting with Joel's own money, as he put it. If I was on track every 4 weeks with weightloss, a certain amount of money would go into a special account just for the lens. (Normally, I have to save the money I earn from teaching and doing photo shoots to make such a purchase). That, folks, is what made the waterworks flow.
Well, I made it. Barely. When I first joined LA Weightloss I got a bit ahead of schedule, but then I hit a darn plateau and stayed the same for several weeks. But, my body decided to take me seriously last week and shed 4 pounds at once, giving me my coveted camera lens.
Joel stood over my shoulder as I weighed myself yesterday morning, cheered for me and then went to work. He came home with a rose and the above card, and we ordered my lens together. Great day. Better than Christmas. I mean, losing almost 20 pounds and a piece of new camera equipment...what could be better?
Now, to get the next 20 pounds off.....
Thursday, December 06, 2007
This has been my most popular photography question, both on email and on the blog post, so it gets an entry all its own.
In order to get pictures of your kids (or your dog, or even your husband) lit by the light of the Christmas tree you will need to do the following:
1. Turn off your flash.
2. Set your camera to Manual. (You can also try shutter priority, and ignore step #3.) If you don't have any of these manual modes on your camera, try the night mode, but most likely you will have a hard time getting the right effect. Sorry.
3. Choose the widest possible aperture your lens/camera will allow. This will be the lowest number. Check your camera's instruction manual to learn how to do this if you don't know. All of my header pictures and the above picture were taken at f/1.8.
4. Choose a high ISO. I took the above picture at ISO 1600, which is the highest my camera will allow. I took the picture of Sophie in my header at ISO 400, which really wasn't high enough and I had to fix it a bit in photoshop. I think I could have gotten away with 800.
5. Choose a fast shutter speed so that your children will stay in focus. You will want that to be a number that matches the focal length of your lens. For instance, if you are shooting with a 35 mm lens, choose 1/30 or 1/40. If you are shooting with a dSLR that has a crop factor (check your manual, folks!) make sure you allow for that when you choose your shutter speed. In the above picture I used a 50 mm lens, but because of my crop factor I needed to double that number to ensure good focus. I shot it at a shutter speed of 1/100.
6. Turn off the house lights and get your kids/dog/husband set up by the tree and start taking pictures! Experiment with your SS and ISO settings, but I recommend that you leave your aperture open as wide as possible.
7. Have fun!
8. These pictures, because they are purposefully underexposed and/or taken at a high ISO, will have a lot of digital noise in them. I suggest downloading Noiseware Community Edition (Google it) and running the pictures through it to eliminate the graininess.
In order to get the really sparkly, twinkly lights that are on the background picture of my header, follow these instructions:
1. Turn off your flash.
2. Set your camera to either Manual or Shutter Priority.
3. Set your aperture fairly narrow (higher number). My picture was shot at f/13.
4. Set your ISO to 400.
5. Set your shutter speed to a very long exposure. Mine was done at 10 seconds, but you can experiment. I do have to say,that at the settings I used even 8 seconds did not produce quite the results I wanted.
6. Put your camera on a tripod or a table or chair. Do not attempt this picture while holding your camera or it will be hopelessly blurry.
7. Turn off the house lights.
8. Take your pictures!
If you don't understand any of the above, I suggest reading your manual and finding out just what your camera is capable of doing. I am not very familiar with the point and shoots, but I know a lot of them offer quite a few manual settings.
Don't forget to keep posting any photography questions. I will make a bigger post next week! Until then enjoy playing with your camera and your Christmas tree lights!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Ever since Chloe could walk she has had a thing for purses and bags and boxes. She loved to put things in each one, and it always amazed me how she would put similar items in each container. Anything with an opening would do, for a while she would even carry around one of my oven mitts filled with Little People.
Well, yesterday I did my monthly deep clean of the girls' room. I have to try and do this when no kids are around or I accomplish nothing. Chloe was at a playdate and the baby was down for her nap (and, of course, Bria was at school) so I decided I'd jump in and get it done.
Part of the reason it is absolutely necessary that Chloe especially be out of the house when I am doing this job is because of all the drama that surrounds it. She acts as if I am sacrificing her first born child when I open up all of her little purses and bags and start putting things away where they actually go. Usually, if I can do it without her knowledge, she doesn't notice that I've put most of it away and we are all happy until the next month when all the boxes and bags have been filled again.
It was a good thing she was off on a playdate this time. I must have neglected the job for more than a month, or she's just been hoarding more than normal lately, because this is what I found:
Dora lunchbox filled with stuffed animals.
White purse filled with Ariel Barbie Doll and every Barbie Accessory in the house.
Purple Pencil Box filled with the Wizard of Oz Happy Meal dolls McDonalds was giving out this summer.
The Fisher Price medical kit case filled with a little set of paper toys she drew and cut out.
Red purse filled with Barbie clothes.
"I love to read my scriptures" bag filled with hair pretties.
Quiet book that zips shut filled with about 30 recent drawings by Chloe.
Winnie the Pooh book set box filled with crayons.
And my personal favorite:
Large green envelope filled with business reply cards torn out of magazines and random junk mail that I can only assume was dug out of the trash.
I only hope that someday her need for organizing things and putting them in containers will make her an awesome housekeeper and not one of those crazy ladies who buys a million things at garage sales and off of eBay and lets it all take over her entire house.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
If you've been reading my blog for very long at all you'll know that I rather like photography. Ever since I was really young I enjoyed playing around with my parents' SLR...in fact, over Thanksgiving I was looking through some of my old albums that are at my mom's house and I found some still life photos I had taken of things like Easter eggs as a 10 year old. If I hadn't majored in music, I would probably have majored in art with a photography emphasis.
Over the years, I've learned a lot about it, but I just barely went digital in March of this year. I know, pretty unheard of. I clutched my pearls of film photography for quite a while before I finally gave in. Most of the reason was financial...I wasn't about to go buy some cheap digital point and shoot when I had been shooting with an SLR for years already. And, Joel was still working on his doctorate and it's not like we just had a thousand dollars sitting around earmarked to purchase a digital SLR. Anyway, we got a nice tax refund this year and after some discussion we decided that the camera would be a justifiable purchase. And it has been.
Why do I love digital? Let me count the ways:
1. I can take unlimited pictures and not have to worry about film costs. That was the one thing that held me back from progressing as a photographer with film. I couldn't afford to just shoot anything and everything. Which leads me to the next reason I love digital...
2. I can see immediate results of the settings I chose. I understood the exposure triangle before, but it was hard to let it really sink in when I had to write every setting down for each frame (and honestly, how often could I really do that?) and wait until I had the roll developed to understand how those settings affected the fnal result (and that's assuming I could even find my notes once I had the prints back!). Now I can experiment more freely without worrying about the waste of film, and I can see exactly what my experimentation resulted in. Because of this I have progressed as a photographer leaps and bounds in the past 8 months.
3. I can pick and choose which images I actually want to print. Before, I just had to develop the whole roll and throw out anything that didn't turn out for whatever reason. Now, I can decide at my computer which shots I want to have hard copies of and keep the rest on a disc or hard drive. Of course, I can also delete anything that didn't turn out and it doesn't have to occupy space in my life anymore.
4. It saves me money in the long run. Sure, the initial camera purchase was pretty spendy, but I did already have lenses, so I only bought the body. I used to spend at least 50 dollars a month on film and developing costs. Usually more, since I am quite an avid photographer. Now, I don't have to initially buy the film, can choose which prints to "develop" and there are so many online labs that are so cheap! I just ordered over 200 prints and it cost me 26 dollars and change, and that included shipping. To get the same amount of prints at a film lab would have been at least triple that, and more if you use 1 hour services.
5. Finally, it makes it easier to blog and share over email. And that's the most important thing in this age of technology, we all know. I realize I should be posting a picture or two with this entry, but Blogger is having issues with image posting, so I'll try to come back and edit later today.
I have a Canon digital Rebel XTi. It has been a great camera for me so far, the only complaint I have with it is that it tends to underexpose if I'm not careful. This is an across the board issue, so most people just set it to overexpose by +2/3. It's a wonderful entry level camera if you have not ventured into SLR technology. If you're a Nikon kind of person, I've heard that the Nikon D40x is a great camera to start out with. Someday I hope to graduate to a Canon 40D, but that won't be for a while.
Lastly, I thought I'd open it up to you for questions. I've gotten lots of emails recently about photography and I like to help people learn. It is a skill that brings me so much joy, who doesn't love getting a shot of their children that just captures them perfectly? So, post your photography questions here and I'll make another post in the next week or so and do my best to answer them. I am by no means the most expert of them all, and I hope that I"ll get the chance to learn a thing or two through your questions too! Feel free to ask about any of the photos I've posted on this blog if you'd like to know how I achieved a certain look.
Monday, December 03, 2007
The other day when I was leaving the doctor's office and headed for the supermarket to fill my prescription, I found myself behind a Jaguar. A very slow-moving Jaguar. I was on Main Street and the posted speed limit there was 45 mph, but this fancy sports car was only going 20.
Needless to say, it was annoying. I mean, who likes being stuck with someone who treats every road like a school zone? Unfortunately, I couldn't get into the other lane right away because of the traffic. So, for a good mile or so, I was forced (as were the folks behind me) to drive as slow as molasses.
When a spot finally opened up in the left lane, I switched and passed the guy. As I passed I saw he was a very elderly man. Now that didn't surprise me at all, but the fact that he was sticking his tongue out at me and making strange, though not obscene, gestures at me, did.
As soon as I pulled back in front of him he honked at me, and in my rear view mirror I could see him continue to make faces at me and over-dramatically mime steering a car. Then, he did the sign for crazy and pointed at me.
He didn't succeed in making me upset though, if that was what he was after. Instead, he made me laugh out loud. And I must admit, it was quite refreshing to have a grandpa in a beautiul sports car sign "loco" to me, instead of some teenager in a low rider giving me the bird.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
And I don't mean a chef that cooks for you, although I don't have one of those either. Chef is a Romanian word (pronounced keff) that doesn't have a very good English equivilant. The best I can come up with is motivation. But it's kind of like desire or being in the mood or even interested in something.
Anyway, whatever it means, I don't have it. I can't seem to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I've gone through the motions, but they aren't helping me feel the joy and excitement that they usually do. My Christmas card is ready, although Joel has yet to write the annual letter. I started addressing envelopes, but got quickly bored with that. I did a bit of Christmas shopping, and while it was fun, I feel stressed about gift giving this year. Not necessarily financial stress...just plain stress. I only have half of my holiday decorations up, and no desire to put up the rest, which are currently sitting in a huge ugly pile on my kitchen table. Finally, the fact that this is my second blog post today AND that I've blogged every day this week (unheard of for me) attests that I do not have any chef for my normal chores. Way too much time on the computer.
So what's missing? Probably I'm focusing on all the wrong things. And I don't like how it makes me feel. Things are busy, yes, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't slow down and remember the reason for the season. That Christ was born onto this earth to save us. And not just from sin...He came to save us from just the sort of stress I've been feeling lately.
I did put my nativities up this morning. They are my favorite part of my Christmas decoration, but they can't be in the most prominent place this year because of a little girl named Sophia. She has shown remarkable restraint when it comes to the tree, but I'm just not willing to put my precious nativity sets in harm's way.
Anyway, I digress. I am off to bed, and hopefully a good sleep and the fact that I get to sleep in a little tomorrow (most of my Tuacahn students are in SLC for a state choir thing) will give me a little bit of chef.
And I think a little could go a long way.