Picture Perfect? Nope.

Traditional, eye pleasing, balanced family portraits with each individual  arranged perfectly have always been a challenge for me. I would not last long as a church directory photographer. While it is good to document a period in time for a family unit, we adults don’t seem to like how we look in portraits.  (Oh, I look so old, fat, my ankles appear too thick, can you give my husband 6-pack abs and a smile?  While you are at it, thin my thighs and waist…)   Then to find a background in the midst of Christmas chaos.  Oh, my.

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So, for the annual holiday card, rather than striving for the “perfect” portrait I decided to celebrate our imperfect, unique, quirky lives with a photo that embraces reality.  We are all leading lives that cover quite a wide spectrum of vocations, educations, interests and then you add a two-year-old.  It is what it is.

Thank you to my mother-in-law for crawling up onto a step ladder to capture this chaos.

Canon 5D Mark 2, Canon 24-70 L lens, ISO 3000, Gary Fong flash diffuser on a Canon 580 speedlight

I leave you with a toast for 2014:  Here’s to another year of experience.

CHEERS!

Christmas is for children… learning the art of giving.

The pretty lights and excitement of opening brightly wrapped gifts are not the only things that provide joy and delight for children. It’s also about the giving. How many of us remember toiling over a project at school meant to be given as a Christmas gift for our parents?  The pride attached to the process, completion of the task, as well as satisfaction when the recipient expressed sincere appreciation:

Oooooh…. an angel made from the Readers’ Digest. It’s perfect and I LOVE it!      


6a00e5509b40db88340120a76e856c970b-320wiThird grade was the year of the Readers’ Digest Angel.

DSCN8340Let’s see… second grade found me tying plastic strips (school received a supply closet full of plastic products donated by 3M that year) onto a coat hangar bent into a circle shape in Mrs. Butzer’s class.  We started well before Thanksgiving since we were tying strips the day the announcement came over the loudspeaker that President Kennedy had been shot – November 22, 1963.

imagesEveryone can use a decorative pencil can. This project worked for multiple Christmas seasons.

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My mouse traps never looked this cute. I recall spray painting them gold, probably before they banned lead in paint. Maybe that explains a few things, huh!

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Weaving  pot holders kept me busy and was  yet another practical item. My mom liked practical items.

bookmark1Felt, glue and hair clips were the essential materials needed to make handy bookmarks and were given to the piano and Sunday School teachers.  Those were the days we all read books that we held in our hands rather than electronic tablets, Kindles, Ipads and the like.  Again, mine weren’t this perfect but did include sequins so they sparkled.

These memories from childhood that pop into my head seem trivial, at best, but must have made an impact since they are still there. The feeling of pride from making a gift with my own hands and satisfaction with the process of giving apparently made a lasting impression on me.

Maybe it IS better to give than receive…?

The Wedding Gift

Young love is exciting, fresh and alive with anticipation of what lies ahead. If only young love knew what mature love would say or do…
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What a blessing to witness a couple that truly demonstrate love and commitment that is lasting. An enduring love that stays intact through triumph, tragedy and the predictable routine of everyday life. This is the best gift this wedding couple could ever receive from their grandparents.

Rural-sourcing… a new trend?

Great schools in our small rural communities prepare our children for life after high school whether that be entering the work force, military or furthering their education.  A strong sense of family, community and work ethic are valued in our daily lives. Participation in several kinds of extracurricular activities, as well as opportunities to be involved in the arts round out the experience.  Many also hold part-time jobs at local businesses and farms.
And then they leave… only to return for the holidays.  But why?

Jobs that can support a family and are fulfilling as a career force them to seek employment in larger cities. The link below discusses a possible new trend to bring high tech jobs to small towns and rural areas like ours:  Rural-sourcing…

http://www.omaha.com/article/20130314/MONEY/703149926/1697
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Southwest Minnesota and Eastern South Dakota are wonderful places to raise a family so this is an interesting concept to provide economic opportunities to rural areas.
Just a thought…

Camino Day 9 ~ Living in the present

One day at a time…Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering. ~Unknown Spain-1040094dmvWe are now out of the town of Arco do Pino as tall, weathered trees line our path through the Spanish forest. Spain-1040100dmvThe moss and vines give the woods an eerie appearance. Spain-1040165dmvWe find the orthopedic surgeon and fiancé along our way and discuss history. He could be the next Rick Steves type tour guide. The path seems to be cut down into the ground with a wall of rock alongside us. Spain-1040111dmvcrA gentle haze settles in the bottoms. Spain-1040112dmvcrThe path lends itself to variety today as we hike though thick woods, open valleys with gentle slopes, easing our way toward the end. Spain-1040121popdmvcreI could speculate that the red, white and blue circle on the photo is an orb of some paranormal being, but I know it’s only lens flare from the sun trying to pierce through the clouds. Spain-1040123dmvpop Quiet walking today as we culminate our journey with reflective thoughts. Spain-1040131crI really should start raising my own chickens, but I’m not crazy about the butchering part of the process. Spain-1040133dmvFunctional or decorative? Spain-1040141dmv Here come the Spanish girls! We take one of  their “last day” group photos for them and we all go on our merry way. Spain-1040158dmvCamino on a bike?  Nope, not for me. Spain-1040177dmv Getting closer…anticipation.  Slow down!  I don’t want this day to end, quite yet!

Camino Day 6 ~ Meet Carmen, Luisa and Ireland

Portomarin was where we slumbered last night in Albergue Ultreia which is run by a charming woman named Carmen.  Carmen’s eyes sparkle and shine and she has a way of getting her message across with grand gestures of arms and hands.  She is a strong, hard working woman, grabbing two wet backpacks and hoisting them up a flight of stairs as though they were merely purses.

We settled in to our dorm room filled with about 10 bunk beds and were immediately invited into the kitchen area by a fun group of young Spaniards having happy hour before their home cooked meal.  They offered us shots of some kind of liquor that had a good “kick” to it, so that helped warm us up inside and out.  I’m guessing it’s the anise liquor made in Spain. Again, must have been too tired to take a picture.  You will meet them later, though.

We were lucky enough to have a washer and drier which is accessed by going outside to the upstairs balcony.  Carmen’s English speaking daughter, Luisa, is extremely helpful with everything from washing and drying clothes to planning our next day, day six.

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Thanks to Albergue Ultreia, our clothing has been washed and dried and our boots have been on little heaters all night.  The blisters on Randy’s feet catch the attention of one of the young Spanish girls staying at the hostal and she offers sympathy and blister salve, if he needed it. People on the Camino show such kindness to complete strangers, that it warms the heart and gives a positive outlook towards mankind.

Coffee machine in the kitchen brews me some delicious, hot java to get my groove on and we eat the rolls we had purchased the night before at the local grocery store. What a great way to start a new day!
Spain-1030715dmvWe are in the center of town so Lori is getting directions from Luisa.

Spain-1030714dmvDiane, Jane and Joan pose for a photo with our friend, Luisa.  Luisa is also a pharmicist along with helping her mother with the albergue.  We met Dad this morning when he was opening up the albergue for the day. Wonderful family.   I am wondering if the black and white photo on the wall is of the old Roman bridge that is now under water.

Spain-1030720dmvLuisa manned the camera, so this is one of the few photos I am in.  I notice the sidewalk is dry and no rain is falling ~ Hooray!

Spain-1030724dmvcrMeet our new friends from Ireland.  They are all turning 30 years old this year and are celebrating their birthdays together on the Camino.  They signed up with a travel tour that transports their luggage for them, so they only have smaller daypacks.  With or without bags, they will still get wet today. Rain gear is essential no matter what you are carrying.  From now on they will be referred to as Ireland.  Such as…

Did you see Ireland at the pub today?

Yes, I did see Ireland at the pub today!  No, wait… that’s tomorrow. 

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Around the world you’ll find pride in the results of laundry endeavors. Why go through all that work if the clothes aren’t sparkling, right?

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Woman washing and scrubbing her clothes in the river near Villafranca del Bierzo in Northern Spain.

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Below is a woman on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica utilizing a tree as a clothesline after washing her clothes in the ocean.  You use what you have.
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Love…in the purest form.

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A tender moment in time between a father and his newborn son.

It’s Photo Friday ~ Let’s catch some action!

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Canon A2E / flash on camera / 2001?

~Quote by Dan Frisby

If you have kids involved with sports, you have probably found yourself photographically challenged from time to time. Gyms are so varied as far as lighting and white balance issues. Cameras have improved through the years which helps the outcome considerably. When I started taking basketball action shots I used a 35mm SLR with an on camera flash and 400 speed film. My first digital camera was a Canon G5 point and shoot that was extremely noisy above 400 ISO. Now I’m able to shoot a Canon 5D Mark 2 at a high ISO with tolerable noise, shoot raw and make adjustments in Lightroom.

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Canon G5 / flash on camera / 2005

Do the inferior images of previous years bother me? Absolutely not! The main thing is I have an image that caught a moment in time. Life is not perfect and it’s O.K. if your images are not of Sports Illustrated caliber. My journey was a learning process and still continues.

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Canon 5D Mark 2 / ISO 6400 / 2.8 @ 1/500

We all like to improve our photography skills so how can we increase our chances of catching a good action shot?

1. Prepare to use a high ISO. I often use 3200 to 6400 depending on the light in the gym. I try to use available light and avoid flash since I have had better results and on camera flash can be distracting during a game.
2. Use a fast shutter speed. 1/1000 is good but I found I would often need to go with 1/500 to have enough light even at high ISO’s and that yielded adequate results.
3. Experiment with angles. The best shots are often not from a seat in the stands. Try taking the pics from different ends and corners while staying out of the way of referrees and players. Try high and low angles.
4. A long lens helps. I use a Canon L, 70-200 IS lens. 300-400 would be great but I don’t own one.
5. Don’t spend too much time “chimping” (Checking your shots.) You will miss some good action shots if you are constantly looking at your images in the camera. I would do some practice shots to tweak my settings during warm ups and use time outs to check what I had and make adjustments, if necessary.
6. Try to take some of the images with your team’s fans in the background. You may want to zero in on the crowd and catch some fun shots.
7. Try using Al servo focus with continuous action to track moving subject. I would often use one shot focus with the center focus frame selected but, if the action is rapidly moving toward you,  Al Servo focus is useful option. Check your manual to see how to access it on your camera.

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These moments are fleeting and will be gone before you know it. Parents, enjoy these days and capture lots of memories to cherish for a lifetime.bb-6172
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It’s Photo Friday ~ A girl remembers Grandma’s place.

Photography is more than just documenting a time in one’s life.  It also captures the emotion of the subject and its background.

This young lady is a senior in high school and chose her grandmother’s childhood home as a location for some of her senior portraits.  The old farmyard is now beyond repair but still holds memories.  I’m sure we can all think of a time and place in our lives that we would like to go back and revisit.

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Grandma’s Place

Two images blended together. All available light

Background ~ 2.8 aperture ~  1/200 shutter  ~ ISO 400

Girl blended ~ 2.8 aperture ~ 1/1000 shutter ~ ISO 100