Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mexico!



Hola! This is the first time I’ve opened my computer in two weeks, and for good reason. We’ve been traveling for 10 of the past 14 days. First we took a kid free trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico while my parents kept Forest and then we were home just long enough to pack our bags for  a 5 day trip to visit friends in California. So much fun but now that I’m back to real life I feel majorly disoriented and unorganized. I plan on getting posts written about Mexico, California, Forest’s Easter basket, and Forest’s upcoming half birthday but that may be a little ambitious of me! One step at a time so let’s start with our Mexico trip! 

Y’all, I have been fantasizing about an all-inclusive trip to Mexico since Forest was born. Honestly, in those sleep deprived newborn days, nothing on earth sounded more desirable than just laying on the beach while someone delivered me drinks. And let me tell you, it was everything I imagined it to be and more. 
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We only went for 4 nights because I was unsure of how Forest would react to us leaving him, but I should have guessed that the little stinker wouldn’t even notice we were gone. When we came back he even told me to go back to Mexico. So next time we know to go for a whole week! 

We stayed at El Dorado Royale near Cancun which was just a short hop from the Houston airport. Honestly only having to pack for myself and getting to use my own ipad on the airplane felt like a vacation in itself. 
The eating dinner by ourselves and taking naps whenever we felt like it and having a butler brings us cocktails on the beach was just icing on the cake. Seriously, when can we go back?!?!?! 


I was a big fan of the beach/pool beds everywhere.

The resort was enormous and had plenty of restaurants, bars, pools, and beaches to explore. My parents are members so we even got to participate in a few ‘members only’ events that were amazing, namely a wine-food cooking show at Fuentes with a guest chef and sommelier where we had a 5 course gourmet meal with perfect wine pairings. 


Unfortunately, I have never had the tolerance to consume 5 glasses of wine so I don’t know why I thought after 4 years of barely drinking at all I would be able to handle it. The food was so good and the wine so perfectly enhanced it that I think it just snuck up on me how much I consumed. The room was certainly spinning by the end of the night and I woke up feeling awful and so mad at myself! I definitely didn’t want to spend one of my 4 kid-free days feeling sick. But the beauty of a hangover on a kid-free trip is that you can actually nurse yourself back to health. 

We woke up and I forced myself to drink some juice and eat some toast and then conked out for a 3 hour nap. I woke up with an appetite for lunch and feeling almost as good as new. Or at least good enough to lay on a beach bed reading and dozing until dinner time. 
It sidetracked me on my goal to finish an 800 page book and sample all the drinks on the specialty cocktail menu during our stay but sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches. Plus we are going back in September to the kid friendly sister resort next door so I still have time to try the rest of the drinks. I also got through a good chunk of both the cocktail menu and my book on our final full day in Mexico. 
I ended up leaving with both about halfway finished.  We had such a good time and just wished we’d  stayed longer. My parents swear that Forest was angelic (and maybe just a little silly) and so hopefully they’ll volunteer to keep him again sometime. I know he had a blast with them and keeps going on and on about fro-yo, chocolate milk, and getting to watch Planes in the car. 

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They even took him to his first MLB game complete with peanuts and cracker jacks, so no wonder he didn’t care if we never got back.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bluebonnet Pictures

It's Spring/Summer in Texas which means the wildflowers are in full bloom. None are quite as pretty as the sea of bluebonnets lining the roads. A friend tipped me off to a library in Conroe that had a good bluebonnet area for taking pictures. Though the lighting wasn't ideal, I was crunched for time and the toddler wasn't being cooperative, I still managed to snag a handful of sweet shots of this Texas boy in his native habitat. 























Recently I watched a podcast from Ted Talks Kids and Family called How to Raise Successful Kids without Overparenting. It was a great reminder to keep perspective and to allow our children to breathe and develop beyond our personal expectations. This particular quote resonated with me and came to mind when I shot this photo of my wild child running through the bluebonnets:  

"Once upon a time, I think I was treating my children like little bonsai trees; that I was going to carefully clip and prune and shape into some perfect form of a human… But I’ve come to realize- my kids aren’t bonsai trees. They’re wild flowers." Julie Lythcott-Haims

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Photography Class



Jonathan got me a gift card to Clickin Moms for my birthday and in February I finally got around to cashing it in for an online photography class. Although I had self-taught myself to shoot in manual via reading my camera manual and various blog tutorials, I still felt like I lacked confidence and had some gaps in my knowledge. As with everything in life, if you don’t have mastery of the fundamentals, you aren’t going to get very far! So I chose a beginner class: Mastering Manual Exposure. 

The class format was that every Monday videos and a PDF would be posted. On Wednesday there would be a quiz on the materials and you had to post a midweek photography assignment based on what the week was focused on and the instructor provided individual video critiques. Then on Saturday you post a final photo assignment with additional video critique from the instructor. 

Everyone taking the class could see all the critiques so there was a lot of information to absorb. There was also a Q&A forum where you could post any questions about the material and the instructor would go more in depth or answer specific nuanced questions. I was immediately intimidated because some of my classmates where professionals or at least already talented enough to become one. But several were beginners like me and luckily they weren’t afraid to ask questions to break everything down into layman’s terms. 

The class was 4 weeks long. The first week focused on getting correct exposure in general and how to spot meter. This was my biggest ‘AHA!’ week as I learned that matrix metering isn’t fool proof but if you learn how certain colors meter (0 for medium gray or primary colors, +2 for white, -2 for black, etc) you can get more accurate and consistent results. This is especially true in tricky situations like in the snow, on the beach or with a background that is very dark. 



Your camera will try to tell you things are over or under exposed because of all the dark or light matter it’s reading, but you can change your settings and basically tell your camera ‘look I know better than you in this situation.’ I still tend to underexpose by a smidge just because when I was first learning I read the tip that underexposing is better than overexposing because if you over expose an image, you lose data that can’t be recovered during post processing, whereas the information in an underexposed image can be brightened in the editing process.

Of course ideally you want to get it just perfect in camera so less editing is needed, so that’s what I’m working on. 


Week 2 focused on aperture and depth of field which is basically how much of the picture is in focus. The wider your aperture, the more light is let in and the more ‘blur’ you’ll have in the background. While most photographers shoot 'wide open' the flip side of this is that it’s easier to let your focus slip if it isn’t dead on perfect. This is a big struggle of mine! My favorite lens opens to f 1.8 and I love it when I get it right, but for now I’m more consistent around f 2.5-3 so I hang out there a lot. 
Wide open aperature = small area of focus, lots of blur.


Narrow aperture= lots in focus.
You also want to narrow your aperature (larger f number) when trying to get the background in focus or shooting subjects on different planes. 




Week 3 was shutter speed and this involves how fast the shutter releases on your camera. I did not like this week! All of our assignments dealt with shooting fast moving subjects and by manipulating shutter speed we had to get a frame of totally frozen motion and another with motion blur. For the most part, photographers want to stop motion and when shooting wiggly toddlers try to keep their shutter speed above 1/500. I think this is a good tip but my camera really lacks in it’s ISO ability so I’m hardly ever to stay above 1/500 unless I’m outside and there is plenty of sunlight. 

Also, nailing focus is another area where I struggle so trying to focus on a rapidly moving subject was terribly frustrating! 





Week 4 was ISO and white balance (correct color for different lighting sources). Another frustrating week for me since I bought a grey card and learned to do custom white balance based on whatever lighting I'm in at the time which theoretically should be PERFECT every single time. 
I am clearly doing something wrong though because it’s mostly a smidge (and sometimes WAY) off. 



Practice makes perfect so I keep trying. Sometimes I love the results.













I wish I would have had one more week of this class to kind of bring it all together. I’m a slow processor so it takes me awhile to integrate and organize such an overload of information. Now I have so many questions but the class is dunzo. But anyway- I loved it! And I wish I would have taken it WAY sooner. I may even consider having another baby just so I could document the whole growing up thing. (Just kidding!)

I loved feeling like I was in school again and having assignments to complete. I loved using my creative side for more than toddler activities and I love some of the images I captured and how the quality of my pictures continues to improve.









Now that I feel like I have a good foundation I am ready to learn the basics of editing and composition so those will be my next classes. Clickin Moms offers two options, either full participation or for half price you can do ‘study along’. In study along you get all the materials and can view all the forums but you don’t submit photos for feedback and you can’t participate in the forums. I feel like I will do study along for my next class just because I am not good at asking questions! Apparently my shyness transfers to my online personality too.