November 29, 2009

Record Holders

It was long holiday weekend. I did a lot, ate a lot, had some highs, had some lows - all of which I plan to blog about. But without a doubt, this second may be the most memorable of Thanksgiving Weekend 2009.

The family of five who fit on the sled (the previous record holders) ain't got nothing on me and my family. I have to say my family's pretty cool, even if they make me sit for Sears portraits.

November 25, 2009

Purchased In A Flash

I made what may have been a rash purchase this afternoon. Remember that lens I want so badly? Well I still want it, but don't have it. Instead, I bought a flash.

This flash is a significant upgrade to the one that is affixed to my camera. I hate my on-camera flash. I never use it. NEVER. It's garish, it's unflattering, it's way too strong and it leaves these harsh shadows. Allow Leroy to demonstrate:

Now Leroy is a very cute cat, but this flash does nothing for him. Without the flash though, there just isn't enough light. I can't hold my camera still enough, and the slightest movement by my subject is detected so my photos always go blurry. Allow Oscar to demonstrate:

My new flash is not harsh. It has a swiveling head, so instead of a pop up flash that fires directly into a person's face, this one provides a wider range of options. In fact, I don't even point theflash directly at my subject. Instead, I point it at the ceiling or some other close surface and allow the diffused light to float down to my subject. This diffused light gives a more even, balanced and true-to-the-moment photo. Allow Itchy and Oscar to demonstrate:

So much better! And actually this purchase wasn't really that rash. I have a running list of camera equipment I want to purchase/invest in. The items are even listed in order of importance. And this flash was certainly on the list - actually only a step on my importance ranking behind the lens I want and can't get at the moment. Plus, this flash was cheaper than the lens, so really it's a win-win.

With this new piece of camera equipment, I can head into my shoot this coming Friday without a care in the world. I'm covered should we need to head indoors. Now if only I could decide what to wear for the Sears family photos. Let's just say I haven't yet taken the mullet wig off the table as an option.

I hope you all have a tasty Turkey Day!

November 24, 2009

Making Good Use of Sub Par

This past weekend I saw my friend Sean sing The Messiah. The entire Messiah by Handel, which I did not know what more than 2 1/2 hours long. Sean currently lives in Toronto but was flown in to sing the tenor part of this production. And he was fantastic.

Even better though, was this performance was in an old church in Evanston, just a few miles north of where I live. I brought my camera of course but was severely limited by the capacities of my lens.

I have been trying to find this one particular lens in the city, and thought I was going to get it Saturday. My plan was to play with it all weekend and then use it to shoot my next family session this coming Friday. After calling a few camera retailers in the city, I found one on Friday afternoon that had my lens in stock. I went to pick it up on Saturday but it had already sold out. I'm so mad I didn't ask to have a lens held for me when I called because I can't find them anywhere now, except online.

Any who, if I had the lens I wanted the lighting wouldn't have been a problem. This particular lens is perfect for times when there isn't much light to capture, like in this old church. Since I didn't have it, I put on my photographer hat, pulled out every trick I had. I drew on the knowledge I've collected over the past few months about my camera's capabilities and tricks for shooting in low lights and was able to catch this.


Not too shabby for a girl with sub par equipment.

Of course I didn't stop with one photo. Once I saw what I was able to do, I also snapped the following.

St Luke's Parish

Here's hoping I can get as creative with my next shoot considering I won't have my fancy new lens to fall back on then either.

November 21, 2009


Whenever Mike and I tell people we live and work together, their reaction is generally the same. "Oh, I could never work with my husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend!" And while they might be right, I can honestly say when the day comes that Mike and I no longer work together, it will be hard.

Given that there are days when we take the train in together, eat lunch together, go on a coffee break together, take the train home to make dinner together and hang out on our couch together, not seeing one another from nine to five will take some adjusting. Granted our relationship calls for a lot of together time, but it's really the only kind of relationship we know. And there are some distinct advantages to it.

For example, on Thursday I received an email at work that sent me into a minor fit of rage. Instead of stewing on the contents of this email for the better part of the day, I immediately emailed Mike. I told him I wanted to get coffee. In the matter of the five minutes it took us to get coffee, I vented, Mike listened, gave me some advice and then I returned to work. I was able to put this minor incident out of my mind, do my job and forget the whole thing by the time 5 p.m. rolled around. That my friends, is a major advantage of working with Mike and one of the reasons why I'll never say we can't work together.

November 19, 2009

Oh, The Humanity

My hatred for inflatable lawn ornaments has been well documented on this blog. If you have known me for any length of time, particularly from November to December, you know I think the inflatable lawn ornament is quite possibly the worst invention to ever grace this earth.

So it brings me great sadness to say the following. I received an email from my friend Kristin this morning. She's currently living my dream life on the beaches of Australia. However, even paradise has its faults. Kristin said she has spotted inflatables in Australia. AUSTRALIA! My worst fears have come true. Inflatable lawn ornaments are truly taking over the world. And if the world does end in 2012 as Hollywood and The History Channel would have you believe, it won't be from massive earthquakes, meteors or hell fire from above. It will be because the inflatables have finally won.

November 15, 2009

I Just Had To Open My Big 'Ole Mouth

I have been telling people for almost two weeks now that my photography Web site would be up and running this weekend. I told people to watch for it Sunday night. Check out I said, because it's going up. The more people I told the more certain I was that I was keeping myself accountable to finally get this thing done. And that is precisely why the universe and Windows Vista decided to give me a great big old SUCK IT last night.

I have been working on my site for about a month now, tweaking with it here and there on the weekends and after work most nights. It took some time for me to get used to Flash, but once I did my site really started taking shape. Last night, it was pretty much complete. I few tweaks here a few links there and it would be good to go. And then it went away, lost forever somewhere in the great worldwide interwebs.

The free Showit sites software I was using to design my site kept freezing up my laptop. The software must not be very compatible with Windows Vista which runs my laptop. Every time my site froze up, I would manually force it to close and then restart it immediately. When I restarted it, I was asked if I wanted to save my last session, so it was cumbersome and tiring but it still worked because I didn't lose any info.

Around 7:30 last night, about a half hour before Mike and I were getting ready to head to a friends house to watch some boxing, my site froze. I shut it down, restarted it and this time it didn't ask if I wanted to restore my last session. It wanted me to start over. I did not want to start over. I wanted to continue working on the site I had just devoted three weeks worth of my spare time building.

I searched for my long lost site in my computer files and on my external hard drive where I had downloaded the software. Nothing. My site was actually hosted on the Showit servers so there was no trace of it on my computer. I didn't have access to anything I could potentially recover. I emailed the Showit people, and Mike and I left for our friends' house. There was really nothing I could do at that point. Plus I was pissed and really needed to walk away.

Flash forward to this morning. I turn on my computer. I try to access my site. It's still not there. I check my email. No word from the Showit people. I then began rebuilding my site. If I pared it down, only add the essential info, I thought I could at least still get it up today. I now knew how to use the program, had the design set so it was just a matter of recreating my work.

I started to build the site and decided as soon as I finished one page I would save it, and save often. Only I couldn't save it. The program wouldn't let me. Not only could I not save it, but I also could not preview it. I couldn't do anything. I decided to see if I could publish it just in case, and of course I could not. Everything I tried gave me an error message. I couldn't do a damn thing.

My next option was to use the desktop in our spare bedroom. I hoped it was more compatible with the software than my laptop. I took my external hard drive and plugged it into the USB port of the desktop. And it did nothing. The desktop would not recognize my hard drive.

It was at this point that I literally threw up my hands. I had been beaten. And I did not care to fight this loosing battle any more.

Suffice it to say, my site will not be up and running tonight. I don't know when it will be. I don't know if I can or want to continue using the Showit software but I also don't know if I'm ready to pay someone to design a site for me. And I'm so frustrated with this whole process that I'm not sure when I'll decide to pick it back up. My guess is not until December.

This is more or less a site about photography now, so I thought it only appropriate to showcase some of Mike's work. In preparation for my site launch, on Saturday afternoon Mike and I went on our roof for a little photo shoot. I wanted a decent picture of me on my new fancy site. I had just gotten my hair done, so I figured there would be no better time to take my picture. Plus it was another unseasonably warm, fall day. So had my site gone up today, this photo would have been on it.

But of course I can't leave well enough alone. Towards the end of our mini shoot, I got a little fierce and let my rage rage. Little did I know these photos would end up being a more accurate reflection of how I feel about my non-existent site.

(Click to enlarge. It's totally worth it.)

November 10, 2009

Nontraditional is So Much Better

When I asked Elizabeth's mom what she wanted from this photo shoot, she had two requests. One was a photo that could be their family Christmas card and two, she wanted me to try and capture some of Elizabeth's expressions, because Elizabeth has a lot of expressions. For example.


The Christmas card photo proved to be a little more challenging. Elizabeth had the tendency to sit still for maybe one shot and then was ready to run again. And unfortunately, getting all three of them looking at the camera at the same time was darn near impossible.

Elizabeth's mom though had a great idea for a photo. Elizabeth loves to be swung in the air between her two parents. They did a series of two passes with me snapping away and as a result we got some of the best photos, I think, from the shoot. Possibly even one that may make for an adorably nontraditional Christmas card.


I'll be giving this wonderful family their DVD of photos tomorrow. I've gotten so much better at my editing process. I'm incredibly proud because after the shoot I told the family I'd aim to have their photos to them by next Monday. They're getting them a full five days early! I like it when I can exceed my own expectations.

As a side note, lots of things are happening here behind the scenes here. I've been working on my professional site for a few weeks now and am determined that it will be going up this weekend. I'm telling this to as many people as I can. The more times I say it the more I'll feel pressured to do it. So do it I will. But I've got quite a few steps to take before it goes live. If I'm silent the rest of the week, that's why.

November 8, 2009

Quick On Her Feet


Don't let this gorgeous little blue-eyed girl fool you. She does not sit still and pose this perfectly. She's quick. Fast on her feet. And shooting her was a bit of a challenge. I came home from this shoot and was more than content to sit on the couch for a bit. She wore me out, but in such a good way.

She was constantly in motion. And her being on the go meant I too had to be quick on my feet. In addition, my mind was racing as she raced in and out of tall, shady trees. I had to think quick on my feet because my light meter was jumping all over the place. I shoot exclusively in manual mode right now, so every time she moved my camera metered differently. I don't think I kept the same settings for more than a minute.


This shoot took me back to the first little boy I photographed. He was a quick one too. His shoot was on a cloudier day, so thankfully the light was much more consistent. I remember getting home from that shoot and thinking the next time I photographed a kid there were a few things I would tweak to give me clearer, crisper images. So that's what I did. And because I did, I was able to get this fast-moving little girl to look like she was sitting still for a moment or two.


I am not complaining though. We had wonderfully unseasonable weather this weekend. This shoot was a fantastic excuse to run around in the sun for a few hours. I honestly can't think of a better way to have spent my morning. Mike and I have had our windows open most of the weekend, and both days I walked around without a coat. I suggested this shoot for this weekend because I don't know how many more days I'll be able to shoot outdoors. It will most likely snow next weekend.

November 7, 2009

Maybe It's Time to Invest in Lighting

As with any new life adventure, I'm finding this photo thing has it's ups and its downs. And sometimes they happen all within the span of 12 hours.

I heard from friend earlier today, the one who's shoot started it all. We chatted for a bit, and in that short amount of time she gave me a business idea and relayed info that a friend of hers wants to use me for a series of photos of her newborn. Awesome. That is a cloud nine conversation.

However, I talked to my mom tonight. We were discussing Thanksgiving plans, and she mentioned she wants to have family portraits taken that weekend. At Sears. I know I can't take these photos. I don't have a studio and I need to be in the photos, but a part of me was a little miffed by this conversation. I'm perturbed because she thinks some part-time, minimum wage Sears employee could take a photo of her and my dad that would compare to anything I could do. For the record, they cannot.

I'm going to bed soon. I have another shoot tomorrow morning that I could not be more excited about. Yet as excited as I am, at the same time I know thoughts of the Sears family photo shoot will be on the forefront of my mind as I drift to sleep.

Side note to my mom: Mom, I'm not mad. This post is just me getting my thoughts out of my head. I love you and will sit for any photos you want me to sit for.

November 5, 2009

Spicing It Up

It's my turn for breakfast club tomorrow at work. Breakfast club means every Friday someone in the voluntary club is in charge of bringing breakfast in for the rest of the club. It's more commonplace to see Dunkin Donuts than it is homemade goods, but I don't like to be commonplace.

I decided on two recipes a week ago: my mom's Apple Spice Cake and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. I got the rest of my ingredients last night and spent tonight baking my goodies. Well three and half hours later the stove finally off and my baked goods are cooling. And you know what else? I'm exhausted. I honestly didn't think baking a cake and some muffins would be so tiring, but hoo boy they were a lot of work - more so the muffins than the cake. And the kicker with the muffins is most of them came out of the oven burnt on the bottom. I took off the paper liners, but as a result some are more like pumpkin cream cheese muffin tops. They are still edible. And people better eat them. And tell me how good they are. Because they sure were a lot more work than I had planned.

Lesson here is that sometimes the effort is worth it, and sometimes people can just enjoy Dunkin Donuts and be happy they didn't have to buy their own breakfast. I'm still hoping the effort was worth it however I won't know until tomorrow.

November 1, 2009

Hasta Luego Manchego

I'm sitting in my kitchen right now waiting for dinner to finish cooking. I went all out tonight and made Mike's favorite meal. It's an Indian dish his mom first made for us a little over a year ago. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me, and now I make it as well. But it's a several step, several pot meal. After more than an hour of cooking, it's almost done. But as I sit here waiting to call Mike to come and get it, I'm debating how much of it I'll actually eat.

It's not that I don't like it. In fact, I like this dish very much. It's the knowledge of the ingredients in this dish that are giving me pause. It's called butter chicken so naturally the recipe calls for an entire stick of butter, not to mention a full cup of heavy whipping cream. That's what makes it so delicious, but that's also why I can't really enjoy eating it. You see over the past few months, I've come to the realization that I'm lactose intolerant. And it's a cruel, cruel condition.

I gradually have started cutting dairy products from my diet. And the positive changes I noticed when I switched from two percent milk to soy milk was enough to convince me that I should attempt to severely limit my intake of dairy products.

Easier said than done.

Cutting out milk hasn't been too much of an ordeal. I don't mind soy in my cereal. I do miss having my daily yogurt snack, but I've found other snacks to replace it. And even though ice cream is my favorite dessert, I also don't mind substituting it for sorbet if I feel I absolutely need an ice cream fix. I do worry about the unknowns. Lactose is sneaky. Did you know that packaged hot chocolate, pancake mix and lunch meats all contain lactose? I did not until I started researching lactose intolerance.

By far though, the thing that's killing me is my inability to consume cheese. I love cheese. Oh cheese. Cheese of any and all kinds. A firm manchego with some wheat crackers is one of my top five favorite things to eat. Cheese is a staple of so many good dishes. Try finding any sort of Mexican food that doesn't layer on the cheese (or sour cream). Same goes for Italian. And hamburgers just don't taste the same without a good slice of cheddar. Mike picked up some Jimmy John's for us yesterday. I got my favorite sub - the veggie. I took one bite of it and frowned realizing that the provolone is my favorite part of that sandwich. I will no longer be ordering it because it's just not any good without cheese.

Lessening my lactose consumption hasn't been all bad. The lack of diary in my system has had a direct impact on my girth. Mike made a comment last night about my midsection looking leaner these days. I haven't been to the gym in more than two weeks so I can't attribute that physical change to any sort of physical activity.

It hasn't been easy to distance myself from my moldy love. I'm weeping internally knowing that there's so much tasty cheese in our fridge right now. I do get tempted to eat cheese and crackers from time to time, but then I think back to a calzone I made for myself a few months ago. I ate it and 20 minutes later looked like I was progressing nicely trough my second trimester.

As for the dinner I'm about to eat, I can't back away from it. I'll eat it. But I will probably make the rice to creamy chicken mixture ratio a little higher than I want to. The rice isn't the standout of this dish. They don't call it butter chicken for nothing.