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This morning, while Nicolas was busy elsewhere, Kalen and I had some together time.

We need to do this more often.

Having just one of the kids around gives me such insight to who they are as people.

We drove by some botanical gardens.  It was early in the day; they were practically deserted.

Later on, when we passed this fellow on our way out to the car, Kalen cried, “Oh look! It’s my old friend, Mr. Frog!”

The requisite “hold my arm out for a self portrait” portrait.  I saw recently that a professional photographer had this listed as her photographical pet peeve.  Methinks she needs to get over herself.  There’s room for fun snapshots in photography, folks.  They don’t all have to be perfect.

Plus, the outtakes from these are almost always fun.  (If not good blackmail fodder.)

As the household camera-keeper, I’m happy to report that all double-chinned arm-extended self portraits were quickly deleted.  I claim right of artistic license.

There is no shortage of comfy benches with great views on which to park oneself and knit.

And read.

And listen to the bees hum.  I was very proud of Kalen.  After a few minutes, he stopped backing away from the bees like a person faced with a knife-armed mugger.  The child has a slight (ha) fear of bugs.

Especially the kind with stingers.

On the other hand, he adores honey, so there’s a certain amount of respect and gratitude there.

Kalen took on the role of “tourist guide,” showing me an endless variety of plants.  He insisted this one was a perfect photographic subject.

My knees hurt just looking at that photo.

Is it wrong to be jealous of your 7-year-old’s knees?

We plan to head back tomorrow morning and search out any letterboxes that might be hidden amongst the plants and bees.  We’ll take along our books and knitting, too.

A step-by-step process to capturing exactly one almost-semi-decent shot.

1. Get to know your camera, and research fireworks photography.  Read Darcy’s post on the subject at least five times.  Make notes on an index card.  Find the appropriate settings on your camera ahead of time.  Charge camera batteries.  Load compact flash card in camera.  Place camera, index card, and tripod in easy-to-grab location.

2. Go to the fireworks.  Realize that, yes, you’ve prepared really well.  You grabbed the camera.  You have the index card.  You left the tripod at home.  Curse yourself vehemently the entire way to the park.

3. Do the best you can without tripod.  Hold your breath when you click.  Hope something turns out.

4. Insert compact flash card into computer.  Begin swearing even more vehemently (This is when being the daughter of a sailor comes in really handy.  It’s in the blood.) when you realize that the dang card became corrupted.  Not only did you lose your fireworks photos, but you lost half the photos from your trip to the Maritime Festival on Mother’s Day weekend.

5. Spend two hours trying to salvage whatever photos you can.  Upload the one fireworks photo that might possibly be viewable to Picnik.

6. Commence happy dancing when it works!

7. Plan for next year: Get on the elliptical and start chugging water, because you’re only 55 pounds away from the weight loss goal where you’ve promised yourself a DSLR camera and nice lens.  Vow to hang the tripod case on the front door on July 1, so you can’t possibly forget to take it with you.

I found the perfect photo for her photography challenge this week.

The theme: Happiness.

I wasn’t sure how to interpret it.  “Happiness” can mean so many things, after all.

Until I was flipping through the photos I took in March and came across this one of Kalen.  (Click on the pic for a pretty, non-blurry version!)

Can anyone look at this and NOT smile?

Go ahead, try.  I dare you.

I didn’t think so.

I had to post another photo before heading off to bed.

Just ‘cuz they’re so danged cute.

Click to embiggen!

Yep, having more fun with my new Actions.  Those things are fun.  And addictive.

I couldn’t resist this little boy when I saw him on today’s I Heart Faces Fix-It Friday post.

See what I mean?  Look at those eyes!

(All work done in PSE 7.0.)  I tilted it very slightly to the left and ran two actions, both from CoffeeShop.  First, I had fun with Cross Processing, then I added the Perfect Portrait action.  I was careful, I hope, to make the eyes look pretty, but not fake.  I think I achieved frameability*.

*New word.  A photo worthy of printing, framing, and displaying!

One of the most difficult things to capture in photography is a decent indoor shot…I mean the kind of indoor shot that doesn’t involve studio lighting.  Snapshots of the kids playing on the floor, a photo of room decor, or of the pretty flowers you’ve picked from the garden and want to email to your mom.

This difficulty was one of the main reasons I signed up for the photography class I’m taking.  I have LOVED learning to use the manual settings on my camera.  They’ve opened up a whole new world (cue the Aladdin music) for me.  Last week, though, we learned a couple of simple tricks for indoor photography.  White balance setting, tripod use, etc.

(And now we break for a moment while I do a little happy dance in celebration of my new best [inanimate] friend: my tripod.  A gift from Jason and the boys for my birthday.  I love it.  Tripod + slower shutter speed = VERY happy Aimee.)

Last night, while it was overcast, and with no special lighting, I took this shot:

Okay, I know, it’s not perfect SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera), but that’s okay.  Poorly-lit indoor shots rarely are.  The thing is, I can work with this.  In the past, most of my indoor shots have been so grainy and dark that I couldn’t make anything out of them in Photoshop.

This, however.  This is FUN in Photoshop.  I could make several somethings out of this.  (And I did.)  But today, I’ll just show you an artsy, fun one.

Textures and Levels and Adjustment Layers – oh my!

My goal is still to work on my photography and aim for perfect SOOC shots.  In the meantime, however, I’m perfectly happy to combine new photography skills with Photoshopping to get the look I want.

This is our last week of instruction in class.  We’re working on composition.  Now here is something I can relax with.  Having grown up with an artist as a parent, terms like Rule of Thirds, Weight, Framing, Contrasting, and Balance are ingrained in me.  I’ve heard them so many times, and from such a young age, that the composition process is something I do naturally, without thought.  It’s interesting to see it written out and demonstrated in a structured manner, and I’m looking forward to experimenting with them thoughtfully.

Time for another installment of photos from our Spring Break trip to gorgeous Vancouver, British Columbia.  We didn’t choose the most beautiful week of the year to visit; it rained most of the days we were there, but hey, this is the Pacific Northwest, and we’ve had a whole seven months to get used to that.

We did head out and about the city whenever there was a break in the rain, and we discovered why everyone waxes rhapsodic about Vancouver’s beauty.

We visited Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver’s highest point.  I’m looking forward to visiting during a week that isn’t overcast, because I’ll bet the views of the mountains are spectacular.

We spent a good part of one day in Stanley Park.

Which has many stunning views of its own.

Including a little leftover Olympic spirit…

…and the Lions Gate Bridge.

We didn’t find a prettier place in Vancouver.

And now for the photos that made me glad I’d brought my tripod.

The view from our hotel room during the day…

…at dusk…

…and at night.

I’m learning to love slow shutter speeds.

Time for another challenge at I Heart Faces.  I took this one yesterday for my photography class.  The assignment was focus.

Be still, my heart.

(As usual, click on the photo for a full-sized, crisp version.)

I’m so glad I’m his mother and not one of the dozens of girls who will fall in love with him.

He’s mine, girls.  I saw him first.

Auditions for the role of daughter-in-law will be held in, oh, about 15 years.

Bring chocolate.

Sweet Shot Day

The boys often tell me they “can’t” do something, because they’re “not good” at it.  My response is always the same: practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  If you want to be good at something, do it over and over.  It’s advice I haven’t always been so good at following.

Except when I love what i’m doing, of course.  Enter photography.  Cameras = fun, especially once you start learning their ins and outs.  Time to enter another challenge, this one at I Heart Faces.  The theme?  Desserts.

Food photography is challenging…mostly, at least in my case, because I don’t have the equipment to handle poor interior lighting.  Well, that’s an easy enough fix when you have a backyard, isn’t it?  Here’s my entry, with thanks to whomever sent chocolate chip cookies home with Nicolas last week:

Have fun clicking through the rest of the entries here.  Consider yourselves warned: if you have any sort of a sweet tooth, they’ll lead to growling tummies.

Horror of horrors!  I actually forgot about 12 of 12 today, until I saw Helen’s post.  Oopsie.

(Aside: I adore Helen’s posts.  Love them.  Gorgeous photography.  In London.  J’adore.  Or, more appropriately, I love.  But I think I already said both.)

So, at about 5:15, I grabbed my camera and went on a tour of our yard.  With the macro setting on.  (Love that little tulip!)

(Note: WordPress is doing that weird “compress the photos and make them look blurry” thing again.  If you click on them, you can see them full-sized and crisp. Thanks!)

You’ll find a recurring theme here, entitled “I don’t really know what this one is,” but I know several of you are gardeners and will happily fill me in!  (Matt? Angelina? Dj? Pretty please?)

Don’t know…the buds sure are pretty, though!

Clover!  And grass!  Bow to my botanical prowess…

Dandelion, in the puffy stage.  (The “parachute” stage, according to Wikipedia.  Learn something new every day!)

C is for Conifer.

Tulip!  I kind of expect it to start singing…

No clue, but I like the speckled leaves.

I admit it — this one’s not on macro setting.  I’m also pretty sure of the genus.  Nicolas Homeworkus, yes?  Finest specimen I’ve ever seen.

More green leaves!  (We have a few of ’em.)

Ooh, a succulent!  I’d never noticed this before today.  Funny how a camera leads you to new [in]sights.

And this, my dears, is what happens when you don’t get around to dead-heading or pruning your hydrangeas.  Prettier in the picture than in real life.  Trust me.

Moss on stick.  Love the colors!

For more 12 of 12 action, check out Chad’s place.

My boys

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