New Mexico in Photos – Part 3 [Wordless Wednesday]

Today I am sharing few more pictures from New Mexico (because I am not actually taking any other pictures these days). I bought a macro lens that I use as a walkaround but I’d really like to use for actual macro photography. For some reason, I can’t get my lens, which is designed for macro photography to autofocus when I zoom too close to my subject (which I thought was the point…). So this is the best I could get. Maybe I need to manual focus?

Any macro tips for me?

 

What Evan Is Reading This Week

To round out an ENTIRE WEEK OF DAILY POSTS, I am going to try a new just-for-fun Friday series, sharing Evan’s favorite book of the moment.

This week’s obsession is:

The other night, I read this to E four times in a row after Ben read it six times in a row.

It’s a silly little Doctor Seuss book about opposites and the different kinds of “feet you meet.” My favorite part about reading this one is that Evan seriously believes I just skip the word “foot” in the first page.

This page always goes like this:

Me: Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right. Evan: Foot.

Every. Single. Time. Apparently he thinks I’m pulling one of my pause-and-see-if-Evan-will-supply-the-word tricks. He can’t be convinced otherwise.

What book are your kids demanding this week? Or what book do you have fond (or not so fond) memories of reading with your kids or parents?

Take Good Pictures, a “How To” You Didn’t Ask For

I occasionally get asked what kind of camera I have, presumably because people think a nice camera is the cause of good pictures (hint: it’s not). Yes. I have a DSLR, but it is entry level. I learned how to shoot in manual and raw and edit a little, which is why my photos are better than they would be with a point and shoot. But the vast majority of my photos are taken with my iPhone. So I thought I would share a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way for better cell phone photography.

(1) Pause for a beat before you take the photo. I know, kids and cats are fast, but you need to give your camera a second to auto adjust the exposure and focus and doing this will prevent blurry photos. Sure, I miss the occasional shot doing this. But I save way more. I also take about 10 pictures for every one I share. Patience, grasshopper.

(2) Straighten the [insert curse word of choice] horizon. Even Instagram has this feature. You have no excuse for your crooked pictures. And no, that intentional tilt does not improve your photo or make it artsy. This is ESPECIALLY true if your picture is OF THE ACTUAL HORIZON. If I see one more crooked beach picture this summer, I might cry.

(3) If you learn one rule of photography, make it the rule of thirds. I learned this – true story – when I got my photography badge in girl scouts and I’ve never looked back. Your subjects should not always be dead center in your photo. While a centered photo might seem instinctual, our brains don’t find that as pleasing for some reason. Instead, break your photo up into three horizontal lines and three vertical lines so you have nine squares. Put your subject at one of the four intersections or put your horizon at one of the horizontal lines. I don’t always do this when I take the photo, so I crop it. It’s not an absolute, but it’s a good general rule. Most apps will show you a grid like the photo above to make this easy.

(4) Edit. Even your iPhone pictures (or maybe especially your iPhone pictures) need a little post-process love. I think it underexposes pictures a bit so I bump up the exposure and brightness on 99.9% of the photos I post to Instagram. I use the Afterlight app to do this – it’s my favorite iPhone editing app. You’ll notice that every one of those photos above is edited a little. I can’t think of the last time I shared an unedited photo (other than this post).

(5) But lay off the filters. I was an early adopter of the Instagram filter. I can admit that. But I haven’t used one in months. I made a conscious decision to abandon the filters and add edits by hand and I am never going back. When I do use a filter, it’s usually a black & white filter in the Afterlight app. I feel like I have my own style now, instead of a mashup of pre-programmed filters.

My Instagram feed last January:

My Instagram feed at the time of this writing:

(I have also rejected the notion that all instagram photos must be square.)

(6) When taking photos of your kids (or other subjects that are low to the ground), get down to their level. It makes for a MUCH better photo. This is so instinctual to me that I couldn’t even find a good before and after to you. I spend half of my life crouching to E’s level, snapping photos. This might be my my knees are so crunchy, now that I think about it.

Bonus Tip: Don’t share 18 photos that are all the same. We don’t need to see 8 photos of your kid eating peas every single day. One daily pea picture will do. Pick your favorite and share that one – it gives it more impact and declutters your social media.

What are your cellphone photography tips and tricks? (I have more I could share if you guys like this post).

New Mexico in Photos – Part 2 [Wordless Wednesday]

 

Last week, I shared some of the scenic views from our hike at Bandelier National Monument.  Today, I am sharing photos with my lovely family in them as well.  Ben, Evan, Ben’s parents, and I went on the hike together and I snapped these along the way. We don’t all get to hang out very often, so these adventures are previous memories indeed.

 

 

(Self-timer success! Although…where is Evan?)

Ben gets Photo Credit on this one.

We all had a fabulous time on the hike. Next Santa Fe post: macro shots.

The Story Hour [Book Review]

Title: The Story Hour
Author: Thrity Umrigar
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 336
Year: 2014
Publisher: Harper
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

When Lakshmi’s only friend moves to California, she decides to kill herself, intending to leave behind the husband who doesn’t love her and brought her to America from India. But she wakes up in the hospital and her mental health is turned over to her therapist, Maggie.  Maggie, who is married to an Indian-American, finds that she cannot leave Lakshmi to return to her old life and prescribes a weekly therapy session with her. What unfolds is an unconventional story of friendship, betrayal, love, and passion.

My Thoughts:

First, the title is a bit misleading. I thought there would be a bigger focus on the actual hour Lakshmi was in therapy with Maggie. I thought there would be even more stories of Lakshmi back in India. I thought it would be a happy story about Lakshmi teaching Maggie as much as Maggie taught her. It was not.

However, that does not mean that I did not enjoy the book. Although I found Maggie unlikeable, I was so intrigued by Lakshmi, that I was able to overlook it. The book tells their stories, but also forces the reader to look at culture, gender, race, class, ethics, and how we relate to people unlike us. It doesn’t shy away from real issues and it doesn’t sugar coat them.

The book did not go in any of the directions I kept expecting it to go, but as I approached the end, I knew there was may too much to resolve than there were pages remaining and I grew anxious. It turns out that anxiety was justified. If you want a perfectly wrapped up story, this one is not for you. If you don’t mind unanswered questions and untold stories, then go right ahead with it.

Thrity Umrigar is a talented storyteller and The Story Hour is worth a read.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

It is Evan’s first day of preschool. I will tell you all about it once I’ve accepted that fact that this is happening. And I promise you there will be pictures. But as much as we are excited about moving forward, I couldn’t approach this milestone without looking back.

Saying goodbye to Evan’s sitter on Friday broke my heart a little. She has cared for him since he was 12 weeks old. She’s comforted him when I couldn’t be there. She’s fed him more breakfasts and lunch than I have. She’s put him down for more naps than I have. For the last two years, he has spent more weekday waking hours with her than with me. She has had a very large role in raising my child from the baby he was to the toddler he is.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I was returning to work from maternity leave. I was an anxious, tearful wreck. I was sure I couldn’t leave my baby with a near stranger. I was sure she wouldn’t care for him the way I would. How could she, with 4 other kids to watch? I was terrified about leaving Evan with anyone else. I gave her a written notes on how to feed him, change him, and soothe him.

But after a few days, I realized we could do this working/daycare thing. And after a few months, I realized Evan was still thriving. I was new to this caring-for-a-child thing, but she had 20+ years of experience to balance that out.

Now, we had our ups and downs. I sat in her house sobbing for an hour one day when she forced me to accept the reality that he was hungry and I didn’t have enough milk and I was going to need to consider the formula I spent 6 hard months avoiding. I spent many annoyed days home with a perfectly healthy kid because she had deemed him “sick” unnecessarily. After doing it for a year, she gave me a hard time about cloth diapering to the point that I finally just sent in disposables.

But she also got me through the challenges of introducing solids and dropping naps. She reassured me that I was doing a good job, even when I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. My son was more loved because he had our love and her love.

This isn’t goodbye forever. No one is moving. We can still visit and she’s offered to watch him on school holidays. But I know that if I am feeling this strongly about the end of this two year relationship, that it will be even harder on her and on Evan. Change is a part of life and this is Evan’s first big experience with that. I know he is going to love school. I know he is ready for this new phase. But I wish I could explain to him why he isn’t going to be seeing his sitter every day .

I promised her I wouldn’t share the last picture I took of her and Evan on Friday online. She thought she looked like a mess. She had just spent ten hours caring for other people’s children for the fifth day in the row. Of course she looked like a mess. It’s a hard job raising other people’s children. Her work day is longer than mine. Her tiny clients are more demanding than mine. She doesn’t get to go our for lunch or take a personal day.  I am going to respect her wishes and not share that photo here, but I know Evan will love her in it just the way she is.

The Graduate [Wordless Wednesday]

I shared one graduation photo on Sunday…

… but here are a few more.

Evan was pretty content playing on the lawn for most of the ceremony and Ben was looking pretty happy up there in his gown.

As the ceremony went on, Evan became a little more interested in what was going on.

And when Ben stood up to receive his diploma and hood…

…Evan thought he needed a buddy…

…and then he thought he would stay up there.

We’re all a bit proud of our graduate.

 

We Were Liars [Book Review]

TitleWe Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: Contemporary YA
Pages: 240
Year: 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary:

The wealthy Sinclair family summers on their private island on Cape Cod. But when she was 15, after her parents got divorced, Candace suffered a mysterious accident and she hasn’t been back since. Now she is 18 and itching to return to the idyllic days of running around the island with her cousins, the “Liars.” But things are not so idyllic anymore.

My Thoughts:

This book was ADDICTIVE, a read-it-in-one-sitting book.

I would have given it the full 5 stars if my reading experience wasn’t slightly marred by the very campaign attempting to prevent the marring.

This is not just excellent YA. It is excellent storytelling. E. Lockhart is simply a fantastic storyteller. I am pushing We Were Liars on everyone. Including you. Go read it right now.

Buy It Now

TSS: July in Review

Well that was an unproductive blogging month. Not even worth recapping. But life still went on.

Evan and I had a busy month together.

I read four books, which I may or may not ever tell you about.

We met Ben in Minneapolis.

My mom came to visit.

And we went on a little road trip to Bonita Springs.

We discovered some new places around town.

We went to Santa Fe.

 

 

Where we watched Ben receive his Masters in English.

 

And Ben came home.

That’s what I was doing while I wasn’t blogging.