Fun with self-portraits.

•August 25, 2009 • 2 Comments

I apologize to the bloggity blog land – this has been a whirlwind month, turned on it’s head by a series of medical interruptions, but we’re at the beach on the mend and looking to make up for lost time!  

Today, Sydney and I were lounging on the balcony, sitting side by side with our feet propped up, drinking our “very special juice drinks” (which, I have on authority, tastes like cookies and ice cream) when I asked her if she wanted to take a picture. She thought for a second as all thoughtful two-and-a-half-year-olds do, and said “Okay mommy, let’s take a picture.” 

But Daddy was on his laptop and I really wanted to capture our moment… not just her looking at me.  Knowing I had precious time before she changed her mind, I grabbed a gorilla tripod, the wired remote my brother gave me for Christmas two years ago, and ran back out to take our picture on the balcony. The moment was lost – she’d already moved on to see what I was up to – but it did give me a chance to show her that SHE could take OUR picture.  

I opened up the balcony doors, balanced the camera on footstool, and I tackled and tickled – our moment was back!


My exposure was a little hot, which is admittedly tough to perfect without a bit of rehearsal – but my goal was to capture the essence of the moment – not the perfection of the moment. And Sydney thought she had to raise the remote up to the camera to make it work, so our tickle became a wrestle.  But with a quick crop – it’s just us…



Using the balcony as a GIANT diffuser of bright mid-day sunlight allows for vivid, even lighting.  I’ve taken some of my favorite photos of friend’s children in this exact spot with the vivid red couch in the background. The trick is that the subjects are safely in the shade of the indoors, with a giant linear wall of sunshine just three feet away.  

So – after a week of rest (and remote work) – we’ll be back to blog… I haven’t forgotten about our series on eyes 🙂


A break in the Big Easy

•August 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

We had a busy week of farewells, travel, work and birthdays… but I wanted to say hello and share a sneak peak of our wonderful trip to New Orleans.  GRA_9077

Learning experiences

•July 25, 2009 • 2 Comments

There are times that I am so proud of my photography journey. When my daughter gives me the gift of the perfect opportunity in the perfect lighting and I just happened to find the perfect settings… and voila!

Sigh. That’s good fun stuff.

But that warm after glow of accomplishment is always completely snubbed by the next set of failed pictures. And I think that’s a good thing.

See, if I only learn to work in perfect situations, then I’m eliminating 99.9% of the moments in our family life that I want to capture. Yes, capturing available natural lighting is, by far, my favorite kind of photography stylistically and practically. But when we take the show indoors, I have much work to do.

Enter yesterday’s inflatable jumpy park play date at our local Pump It Up. Sydney had A BLAST. So much so that for the first 20 minutes, she ran up to me and hugged me after every slide to tell me “Mommy, I hab!”.

But mommy was in for a different kind of playground ride – teeter tottering on the limits of my photographic abilities. The lighting in the jumpy park is horrible for photography, at best. Precious few gymnasium-style fluorescents hung 20 feet in the air, making everything dark and, well, fluorescent. But before I start complaining about how fluoresent light makes people look like walking zombies, it wasn’t the color of light that was my problem… it was the lack of it.

I had two options. I could either use my onboard flash, or dial up my ISO to extreme levels. And since I’d rather pack up my aspirations and go home than use the direct pop-up flash on my camera, it looked like I’d be cranking up the cameras sensor.

If you’re not up on camera geek speak, ISO measures how sensitive the sensor on your camera is to light. If you’ve opened your aperture as wide as you can go, and lowered your shutter speed to where you’re on the border line of motion blur, your only other option is to raise the ISO. This can be very effective in medium to medium low-light situations, since most decent dslr cameras can handle a modest ISO boost. But start to get crazy with it, and you add noise so bad to your pictures, that it almost isn’t worth the struggle.

Yesterday, I decided to test my D-200’s ISO limits. Here’s what I learned.

Get it close and get it right.


Here’s baby ‘E’ at f1.8 with a shutter speed of 250… ISO 2000.  Considering I usually only take my ISO up btw 100-and 800, that’s really high for me, and it’s not bad!

But if I zoom in to the details, the noise is unbelievable! But, at a small size, it’s acceptable. If I were to zoom in or make ANY exposure adjustments to this picture, the noise would jump out.Picture 1

Here’s what would happen if I started making only slight adjustments like an exposure boost and sharpen.

GRA_8361 - Version 2

It’s hard to see at this size, but all the noise is starting to give baby ‘E’ a 5-0-clock shadow!  Not so bad here, but if I actually wanted to print this in anything larger than a 4X6, it would be very distracting.

Picture 2

So clearly, if I’m going to take pictures at this high ISO, I need to get my aperture and shutter speed exactly right on the first click because there’s very little I can do with it later.

Now here’s a great example of why a subject in the distance doesn’t work so well:GRA_8401Picture 4

Technically, she’s as in focus as she can be – but there’s just so much noise making up the details that there’s almost nothing I can do with this.

All this being said, we did have a great time, and I learned that next time, as much as I’m afraid of it, I need to bring along my speed light flash if I’m going to capture anything I’ll be proud of.

Here’s some more pics from my humbling at the jumpy park!

play (4)play (3)play (2)play (1)

Noise or no noise – Sydney and her friend “M” had a blast.

Pt 1 – The Eyes Have It – How to Photograph Eyes That Dazzle

•July 22, 2009 • 3 Comments

Have you ever seen those photographs of children with eyes so stunning that you can’t look at anything but their eyes?  They’re perfect – colorful, sharp, BEAUTIFUL.  Well, I’m still learning how to take pictures that make the most of my daughter’s beautiful peepers.

The first step is finding the light in your child’s eyes and, as this video featuring our adorable friend Alex shows, there are a few things to consider.


The daddy monster.

•July 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

Jon bullhorn

Ever wonder what it’s like being married to a politico?


•July 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Sydney back window 3If I had to pick the thing that I love most about this age, it’s how Sydney so wants me to do everything with her and is so proud of my involvement. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it also falls on that other list called “Things that take away whatever morsel of personal time I might have had”.

So yesterday, as I was putting together jigsaw puzzle #5 of the day (we only actually have two jigsaw puzzles, so you do the math) I thought – well, I might as well take some pictures while we do this. “C’mon Sydney, let’s move the puzzle on the floor by the back window!” Everyone wins.

“Okay Mommy Mommy, let’s make-a da puzzo”. I’ve birthed a Sicilian.

Here’s our 6pm puzzle time – West-facing window.  They were so contrasty they were ripe for black and white…
Sydney back window 1

Sydney back window 5Sydney back window 6

Why I love Apple’s Aperture…

•July 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

There are some things I could write about – but WHY, when I can just show you.  Especially when it’s something that saves a busy mom a lot of time when it comes to her pictures.  Here’s my very first video blog… 2 edits… one quick in Aperture, and one round-tripped from Photoshop.


Sydney yard v-log 3 (1)


Sydney yard v-log 4 (1)


Sydney yard v-log 1 (1)


Sydney yard v-log 2 (1)