personal photojournalism: fall arrives

i'm going to keep the words brief and the images plentiful for this month's blog circle.  as much as i'd love to talk about the fabulous tree at the top of our street that drops its gorgeous yellow leaves several weeks before the rest of the trees in the neighborhood, i think it would be a lot more effective just to show you.

the best part of this tree is that it's right by the special secret spot in our neighborhood where you can almost watch the sun go down instead of just losing it behind the tree line, so there's usually some really yummy light up there at the end of the day.

so when i still needed a picture for my 365 after a long and busy day, and dinner was finished but bedtime still hadn't arrived, and the kids were rammy, the tree and the sunset were calling to us.

it ended up being the most perfect 30 minutes.  the weather was beautiful, the kids were in their element, and the rest of the world just kind of fell away from us as we played and i clicked away.

happy fall :)  be sure to follow the circle around to amanda's post see what she's been up to as the seasons change! Family Photographer in Gwinnett County

my husband found some butterflies

yesterday we took the kids out to spend the day with our dear friends.  it was hot, but the kids were wild, so we took them out on the back deck to play in the wading pool.  after awhile, they were ready to burn off more steam, so while i sat with my feet in the pool and caught up with our friends, my husband ran with the kids around the yard.

a few laps of their townhouse row later, my sweet, wonderful husband pops his head around the stairs and says "hey, there's a bush down there that's covered in butterflies.  i thought you might want to go take some pictures."

seriously.  they don't make men like him anymore.

so i ran inside and grabbed my camera.  i was halfway to the door when it occurred to me that this was the perfect chance to practice free lensing a little more after a months-long hiatus.  after a few minutes spent hacking my poor neglected 50mm lens, i was outside and zooming my way over to the butterfly bush.  

i wasn't able to grab focus as well as i had hoped (free lensing is always, always harder than i remember it being), but i was still pleased with the number of images i ended up hanging onto.  a little something different for my creative soul :)

a monday morning hike

my attention has been divided into so many pieces over the last few months that most of my 365 shooting has been aimed at getting a single great (or, honestly, good) shot each day.  and that's not necessarily a bad thing- it saves me time at the computer in the evenings, it helps me focus on refining my ability to shoot in specific types of light, it gives me a chance to try out new techniques, etc etc etc.


i love telling stories.  a lot.  i love reading them out loud, i love relaying them to friends, and i love using my photos to create them.  so when one of my favorite photography groups on fb had a bit of a revival last week to draw it back to its roots of documentary, storytelling photography, it made me realize that i need to have a bit of a revival myself.

so today, instead of trying for one single great (or good) shot, i dusted the cobwebs off my mental checklist for shooting to tell a story and captured our morning hike through a local forest.  enjoy :)

the first time we visited this forest, this staircase was precarious, at best.  the last time we visited, there was no staircase (but there was plenty of caution tape).  so this time, all three of us were excited to check out the new stairs leading to the hiking trails.

the boys wasted no time, and immediately took off down the trail where they each weaved in and out of the dappled light as the sunshine filtered through the leaves onto the treasures they found less than a minute after our walk started.  and so of course, as they were collecting leaves and sticks, i was collecting a frame or two of the little yellow flowers lining the entrance to the woods.

one of the things i love most about these outings i take with my boys is to watch them as they explore and discover.  they both have such different ways of approaching the world, and they both notice and value different things, but they always look to one another for guidance and encouragement just the same.

and then, of course, we had to stop for a snack break- followed by a hit of the paci and a momma snuggle for the little, who i think was starting to feel a little overwhelmed and certainly a little tired.

now that he had refueled, my big discovered that the forest has a lot of rocks.  first he found the big ones that had collected around the benches where we sat to eat, and after throwing them onto the ground (his favorite thing to do with rocks), he noticed that the path we had recently turned onto was literally made of small rocks.  which meant the rest of our hike consisted of him stopping every 10 steps to dump his current fistful of rocks to replace it with the new, clearly superior rocks now beneath his feet.  and sometimes stash a few in his pocket.  meanwhile, the little imitated him for awhile, and then moved on to his own personal forest favorite- the stick :)

once the initial excitement of the rocks died down a bit, i got us walking again and shortly thereafter we came upon a bridge over a small creek.  in case you didn't know, creeks are the ideal place for chucking rocks, so of course that reignited the need for rock collecting and tossing.  luckily, there was no one else around, so i left them to their devices and took the opportunity to shoot a few details shots, including this massive spider whose web was hanging directly at my eye level smack in the middle of the trail.  i'm just grateful he didn't end up in my hair.

with a little (or possibly a lot) of persuasion, we ended our rock throwing and headed back towards the car.  our last discovery for the day was these cool little pine cones that we found littered across one section of the trail.  unfortunately, they held our attention just long enough for both kids to hit the "i've waited too long for lunch" threshold, and i ended up carrying one most of the way back (until we got back to the stairs and suddenly his legs worked again!) and the other one got a stern talking to once we reached the car.  

the downside (or possibly the upside) to being your own family documenter is that you miss out on catching the moments like that, but i'm thankful for the parts of the story from today that i was able to hold onto.

happy monday all <3 

sunflowers abound

last summer, a sweet friend of mine messaged me with the location of a field full of sunflowers because she is kind and thoughtful and knew i might like to photograph it.  unfortunately, last summer was the perfect storm of me not being able to do much because of the age and stage the boys were at, and my undiagnosed RA, so we never did make it out.

luckily for me, that friend is not only kind and thoughtful, she is also smart and persistent, and so she messaged me again a few weeks ago to let me know that the sunflowers were about to bloom- and this time i refused to miss it.  my initial plan was to head out solo at sunrise to catch some pretty light and hopefully not run in to other folks hoping to photograph and pick flowers to bring home.  it was pouring when i woke up this morning though, so instead i waited for it to clear, and then my boys went with me around mid-morning and i'm so glad they did.  we were only there for about 20 minutes, but we really enjoyed walking through the field and choosing our favorite flower to bring home- and truthfully i'm really digging the images i was able to get.  so much so that i'll probably be heading back sometime soon before the blooms are gone :)


many thanks to the owners of please wash me car wash for their generosity in allowing folks to come out and take photos (and flowers!) as they please.  gestures like this spread so much happiness and truly make the world a better place to be :)

into the forest

today finally, finally, finally felt like spring.  it was one of those rare perfect days where the weather just is.  no chill in the air but not hot either, a light breeze with warm sunshine- you can feel it, but you're not distracted by it.  it's the kind of day where you breathe deeply and the air fills you up and the sunshine recharges your soul and no matter what may be going on, you're reminded that life is good.  like, really, truly, deeply good.

days like today are not to be wasted.  they're made to be lived in and run through and soaked up and inhaled so that we can carry them with us through the days that aren't quite so perfect.

so, that's what we did.  after a morning at the playground, we came home, fed and napped the kids, and then packed back up and headed out to a local forest, which happens to be my new favorite place in the world.  seriously.  i would spend everyday there with my kids if they would let me.

we started out finding rocks and tossing them into the creek, which happens to be one of their absolute favorite new things to do.  it took some convincing to keep them out of the water since we usually let them wade around in the creek at one of the parks we go to, but once they realized what an abundance of rocks they had available to them, it became a non-issue.

this kiddo here is intrigued by the details- rocks, sticks, bugs, anything he can dig up or take apart or closely observe- and i love watching him explore the little things of the world.

after awhile, we left the creek and headed out to a new trail we've never walked before.  it was flat, which was nice for the kids, but still had plenty for them to see/pick up/climb on- and had plenty of stunning light for me to play with :)

these next three images may seem a little redundant, but i've got my momma goggles on when i look at them, so they all got to stick around.  i have no idea why he was walking this way, but it was so cute i could have cried.  he is developing into such an incredible little guy, and it is beautifully amazing to watch.

it was just the most perfectly wonderful afternoon, and i'm so thankful for everything about it <3

tulips want to be photographed too

after a glorious day of sunshine yesterday, i was a little disheartened to wake up to a gloomy sky blanketed in clouds this morning.  i had checked the forecast at bedtime, so it wasn't like i didn't know it was coming, but i was hoping this would be one of those times the forecast was wrong.

of course, it was dead on, and as a result i spent much of the day wandering around the house wishing for sunshine and half-heartedly trying to engage my kids in playtime.  unfortunately, they were so busy thinking wistfully of the hours we spent outside splashing in the creek yesterday that they weren't so much interested in what i had to offer, and so we ended up passing the time grocery shopping and then lazing around.

by the time 4 o'clock rolled around, it occurred to me that i had neglected to even give my camera a passing thought, and so i began casting my eyes and brain around the house trying to find something worthy of photographing on this less than inspiring day.  my kids had both descended deep into the land of grouchiness, so i knew they were both out, and yesterday fulfilled my self-portrait quota for the next 100 years, so that wasn't an option either.  i was starting to contemplate asking my studly husband to sit in some window light for 5 minutes for me when i wandered aimlessly into the kitchen and my eyes landed on the vase full of gorgeous spring goodness my parents sent me for my birthday.

my husband owes these tulips- they were sitting there just begging to be photographed, and consequently they saved him from several minutes of certain torture.  i quickly hacked my 50 mm lens and started free lensing away, and before i knew it my bad mood started to shed and i found myself feeling not-quite-so bitter about the seemingly never-ending grey that has settled over our spring.

i clicked away until i ran out of angles to try, which luckily happened right around the time the little started climbing up onto the chair i was standing on.  i took and kept more than i had originally intended, and while i meant to edit them to be one cohesive and matching set, i ended up finishing each image with whatever i felt looked best for it individually.  i like the feel of creating a family of photos that goes together, but sometimes they each need to be treated as their own unique image, so tonight i rolled with it.

and here is the result- thirteen tulip images for this friday the thirteenth :)  happy spring- sunshine is surely on its way.

soul food

if you don't live in the northeast, then you may not be aware that it's been raining where i live since the start of time.  or at least, it feels that way.  we had this amazing stretch of beautiful, warm, sunny weather that prompted me to get my kids' summer clothes out a few weeks early and let us fully shake our cabin fever with long stretches of outdoor play every day.  and then, the temperatures tanked and the rain started.  and every night for at least the last 10 days, i would check the forecast and see sun 3 or 4 days away.  and i would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that sunshine was coming.  and every morning i would double check the forecast and the little sun had somehow been replaced with the little rain cloud icon overnight.  and i would stare at it with large eyes and a quivering chin, and i would remind myself to breathe, and i would strap on my mom armor and remind myself that rainy cold weather can't last forever.

did you know 10 days actually is forever when you have 2 kids under 4?  because it is.  it is forever plus some.

so today, when stepping outside didn't feel quite so much like stepping into a damp, barely functional refrigerator, i decided to venture out while the kids were sleeping and feed my soul with a little nature.  i took my camera, and i took the quiet, and i wound my way through my parents' front yard and soaked in the proof that it actually is spring and that summer really is coming, even if the weather refuses to admit it.  i picked my way between branches that are just the right amount of overgrown to be beautifully quaint without looking unruly and i let myself shoot what i wanted to shoot and how i wanted to shoot, and i felt the weight of all the rain lifting.  it's good, to find what feeds your soul, and to let yourself get lost in it every once in awhile.  for me, being a momma fills me up and makes me feel complete and gives me purpose and reason and joy- but when i need something just for me, i've found that what i need is time to get lost.  lost in a book, lost in my thoughts, or lost behind my lens, entrenched in the beauty of the creation that surrounds us.

today was good.  it was a reminder that even in the rain, there is goodness all around if you're willing to take the time to look for it.  and after i packed my camera up for the day, after i got my fill and was able to breathe a little more slowly and a little more deeply, i was able to settle back into the rhythm of life and reality with joy and thankfulness- and that's the best soul food there is.

day 98

a few confessions tonight before i post the pictures:

1. when i opened up the set of lenses for my iPhone 6 that i got for christmas from my super cool little brother, i was SO pumped.  but i specifically remember pulling out the telephoto lens in the box (after drooling over the fish eye for a minute) and thinking "this is neat, but when the heck am i EVER going to use this one?"

well, today i actually went running for that telephoto lens.  my first impressions almost always end up being wrong.

2.  i broke one of my rules for my april iphone challenge.  i did a little extra photoshopping to these images to add some more negative space because.... well, because i love negative space.  no shame.

3.  birds sometimes freak me out.  i don't mind one or two at a time, especially if they're being all pretty at my bird feeder or hopping around all cute on my deck, but when they start chasing each other back and forth between trees, especially en masse, i start to get a little squicky.  let's just say i scooted myself back inside a little faster than was necessary after i took these.

also important to point out- i did three pretty different edits on these three otherwise very similar images.  i couldn't decide which direction i wanted to take with the set, so instead of trying to be cohesive, i just went three different ways.

okay.  enjoy.

day 77

we had a thunderstorm today.  it was one of those storms that rolls in out of nowhere, hits hard, and then is gone before you really get a chance to enjoy it.  normally i'd be disappointed at how quickly it came and went, but the truth is, the brevity of this storm was a very good thing. 

my little is still at that age where, if i act like something is cool or exciting, he automatically thinks it's cool and exciting too.  so while i was running around the house with my camera ooooo-ing and aahhhh-ing over the scary mothership of clouds settling over our neighborhood like that scene in independence day, he was right there running around with me.

my big, on the other hand, has always hated loud noises and anything sudden or unpredictable, so thunderstorms are not exactly his cup of tea.  last summer he did pretty well with them because he was mostly still in the place his brother is in now, so with a lot of plastered on smiles and clapping we got through them sans meltdown.  unfortunately, he went ahead and got older and smarter (without my permission) and he has since learned to identify the overenthusiastic face and voice that come out when i'm trying to make a scary something seem not so scary.  below is the face he made in response to this face/voice combination of mine following one of those lightning bolts that strikes so close you can hear it as it leaves the clouds and travels down to the ground.

he had been on approach to climbing up my legs and hiding under my shirt just seconds before this was taken.  however, he's fairly intuitive and i think he could tell that not only do i genuinely enjoy thunderstorms (although i do oversell it a bit) but also that i was trying to keep his brother from noticing that booming thunder and dark clouds can be legitimately frightening.  and so, he did his best to slap on a big old fake smile, and then sat in silence for the remainder of the storm, nervously glancing back and forth between his toy that he struggled to fully engage with and the open back door.

the little, on the other hand, was pretty much glued to the back door, laughing and pointing as the wind snuck in and pressing his hand to the screen when the rain started coming down to try to feel the mist flying off the big drops as they splashed onto the deck.

and then, as quickly as the thunder had rolled in and the clouds had accumulated, they started to thin and fade, and even though the rain persisted, the sun shone strong enough through to cast some late afternoon shadows and some post-storm peace.

the light that shone down through the clouds reflected off the water on the deck and sent this beautiful light onto our ceiling:

and then a minute or two later, the rain stopped completely, and all that was left of the storm was a rain-and-sun-soaked deck, a knocked over watering can, and a relieved big brother who was finally able to return to his toys :)

week 11|52

this week's theme: my afternoons.

this is perfect because it occurred to me the other day that i haven't shot to tell a story in a very long time- and perhaps that's why i've been stuck in such a rut.  i've either been too distracted by everything going on in my life to be able to devote much mental energy to photography (trying to give myself some grace there), or i've been so wrapped up in trying to get one perfect shot that i get frustrated when i can't and feel like the whole thing is hopeless.

here's the thing- getting that one perfect, breathtaking, stop-scrolling-to-stare-with-your-mouth-open shot is awesome.  it's validating and exhilarating and encouraging and motivating and all those great things.  but the problem is that it can't happen every day.  i think even the best, most talented photographers would be hard pressed to create a show stopping image every day of their life.  and another problem with only shooting to get that one perfect shot is that i may get one that i think is "the one"- and nobody else really cares.  i may create an image that i love so much that i just want to stare at it and check my facebook every 30 seconds for 3 hours after i post it to see the reaction, only to find there isn't one.  not everyone sees the same thing when they look at a photo, and that's okay, but it can also be kind of discouraging.

back to the point: this is the perfect theme to help me get back to shooting to tell a story.  as much as i love getting one awesomely gorgeous and amazing image in a day, it's an unsustainable way for me to approach my photography.  i enjoy the process much more when i can focus on shooting to convey emotion and connection and life as it really is.  i like having my camera out for 30 minutes and taking pictures as we go instead of taking the same shot over and over to try to get it juuuuuuuuuust right.  i like sitting down at my computer and knitting together a story with the images i've created.  it's a little more time consuming, but it's also much more fulfilling and meaningful and authentic, and more importantly, much less stressful for everyone involved.

of course, today i chose *not* to shoot to tell a story because i was just too darn tired to have my camera out for very long (thanks daylight savings time!) but hopefully i'll be able to share what our afternoons look like at least a few times this week :)  instead, here's an image of what my afternoon looked like today:

mimi took us to toys r us today.  needless to say, we left with 2 very spoiled little boys ;)

and, because i haven't done a nature shot in way too long, and the blossoms on my mom's trees were too beautiful to pass up:

day 53: continued adventures in free-lensing

i wrestled a little bit with whether or not i wanted to choose a single image to post today, or if i should just go ahead and put all of what i got out there.  in the interest of remaining authentic, i figured i might as well share them all.  it's clear that free-lensing isn't my strong suit, so this week i'm not as concerned with showcasing my best work as i am with sharing the learning process.  

so- today i took my kids for a "hike" (as much as you can hike with a 1 and a 3 year old), and right before we turned around to head back to the car, they started asking for a snack.  i gave them each a granola bar, so as they chowed down and (mostly) stayed put, i thought i would try free-lensing the sun filtering in through the leafless trees...

yeah, not so much.  i mean, the flare is awesome, but that's about all these have going for them.  for the life of me i couldn't get a single thing in focus, not matter how much i twirled the manual focus ring on my lens.  i figured i would try again once we got home on a stationary object that wasn't quite so far away.  that was until we spotted a little bridge over a small creek on our walk back to the car, and the kids realized how cool it was to throw rocks into the water.  so, while they were occupied and (relatively) unlikely to fall into the water themselves, i decided to be brave and attempt to free-lens non-stationary subjects.

out of this set, i like the last one the best.  i think it's cool that i somehow (don't ask me how) managed to get his little hand in focus- although i do love the detail in the railing on the first one, and then varying degrees of out of focusness (new word!) in the second.  they each kind of tell a story in their own way.

i thought that was going to be it for free-lensing attempts for the day, but this afternoon was crazy beautiful out, so we took some of our favorite toys out on the deck to play with.  being outside has this magical effect of making kids super engaged with what they're doing, so i ended up with another really good stretch of time to mess around with my camera while they played contentedly.

i took quite a few while we were out there, but only ended up with these 2 that were kind of worth keeping.  i definitely prefer the second over the first.

one of the main things i noticed tonight when i was going through these images is that they're all lacking in interesting light and composition- you know, two of the most important elements in a strong photograph.  i get so focused in on getting the free-lensing part correct that i forget that i'm still trying to create a compelling image.  so, my goal for tomorrow is to think of the overall image first and the free-lensing part second.  we'll see how that goes ;)

day 31

the new theme for this week is "winter".  we have a ton of snow outside which probably would have made for some great images, but i just didn't have it in me to crawl around in the snow today.  i'll probably go for it later in the week once i get some sleep under my belt, but to kick off the theme, i decided to keep it documentary.

last year, for my first 365, i did a storytelling shoot of my mom while we were out fabric shopping.  today, she was helping me out with a project and so i decided to do a mini-story in between making sure my little didn't stick his fingers in the sewing machine while she worked.  because it's winter- and in winter, my momma sews.

i did grab a few shots of what winter looks like from the sewing room window- the window my dad put in himself to give my mom more light while she creates  :)