All posts by Michelle

Wife, mother, writer & amateur photographer.

Photos vs. Memories

Why do we take photos?  I ask rhetorically because everyone takes pictures for different reasons.  Personally, I take pictures for so many reasons.  Some pictures are just to see the beauty of an object.  Some photos are to see if I can get that difficult or cool shot that I imagined trying to get.  And other photos are to remember events.  I even try to scrapbook occasionally as an added way to remember events.

Memories are funny.  I can remember various events and things in my life back to around when I was 3 years old.  Yet, I sometimes forget aspects of events that occurred just a week ago.   I take photos in the hopes that not only will I remember an event or moment, but that I will remember all the nuances of that event including the emotion that went along with it.

My son, however much he loves looking at photos, does not NEED to look at them.  Somehow, at almost 3, his memory is far better than mine is.  Is that because he has less memories to try to remember?  Or is he just one of those people with a great memory?  Only time will tell.  Currently, I can show him places that we’ve only been to one time and he almost always remembers the place and has a comment about what we did or who we were with.  That amazes me, because in some cases, were it not for the photos, I would probably have forgotten the event completely.

I love taking walks with my son and having him help me find things to take pictures of.  These walks are events in themselves.  We don’t always find good things to take pictures of, but every once in a while we will find a great opportunity.  One of those was the pic below.  I was taking pictures from “adult” height, when he told me to “look up” and then pointed.  From his height, the view of the flowers was even more stunning than my view.  It was amazing to me that I had to hear it from him to realize that I was not considering all vantage points when taking pics.  It certainly is a lesson and event that I won’t soon forget!

And that brings me to my next concern.  Am I taking too many pictures and not enjoying the moment?  Sometimes I see it in my son’s eyes (or even my husband’s eyes);  a look like, “put the camera down and just come enjoy this time.”  And most of the time I do, because  I don’t want him to only have pictures of himself playing alone or with daddy and no memories of me playing with him or the two of them.   I want there to be a rich combination of mental images as well as digital images for him to remember all the fun we have together.  He won’t get both types of memories if I fail to put the camera down…and that is something else worth remembering!

My son's view of the flowers
My son’s view of the flowers
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Accidentally in Motion

I have always loved the concept of artistically capturing motion in photos, however most often, the movement along with my automatic camera’s shutter speed just came out as a blurry, indistinguishable mess.

I still have some old attempts at motion images and they are so old now that I can’t even remember what the subject was supposed to be.  Was that green blur based on plants or a car?  And the brown photo?  Was that a dog, cat, or some brown leaves blowing in the wind?  I look back and laugh (or cry) at some of the attempts.

It turns out that all I really needed was a better camera and a better understanding of shutter speed and how to use it…and maybe a little luck!

Recently, I caught two really great motion pics – a bit by mistake – if I’m being honest here.  I was playing around with the manual settings on my Nikon and was experimenting with them to see how I could get some great shots.  The first one (below) is the spinning motion of my son twirling a dandelion in between his fingers.  You can see that his arm is mostly in focus but the dandelion is clearly in motion with the dandelion snow blurred a bit from it.  I expected to see the dandelion snow frozen in time, perfectly in focus, but bent over from the motion.   I love this pic even though the end result was not what I was originally going for!

Spinning Dandelion

The second pic was taken this afternoon, while I was taking macro shots without a macro lens of a rose with some daisies in a small vase.  I was trying to focus on the rose while having the daisies blurred in the background just providing color and texture behind the rose.  I did get one pretty decent shot, but that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about capturing motion.  And the picture below is a perfectly, accidentally timed picture of the rose falling out of the vase.   I love that you can still tell it’s a rose and that the colors behind it are so vibrant.  But it is also very clearly in motion.  Had I not already been taking the photo (while I thought it was NOT in motion), I would never have gotten this shot.

Fallen Rose

 

I love when my photography accidents are beautiful while providing important lessons.  And in this case, I finally proved that with the right camera and some luck, I can get some good motion shots!  Next time I will be trying to get motion pictures on purpose…maybe.

Photographic Disappointment

Have you ever seen the perfect series of pictures materialize before your eyes and either not had your camera with you, or taken the pics only to realize that they didn’t come out right later?  The latter used to happen a lot in the days of actual film.  My term for this common occurrence is “Photographic Disappointment.”

This weekend’s photographic disappointment happened when I decided not to take my DSLR with me for errands and had to resort to using my iPhone to take the pics that would have been far better if taken with my “real” camera.  Or even my old “real” camera (my Canon Elph Powershot).

Even worse is when I upload those iPhoto pics to Instagram and Flickr and see the comparison between direct upload to a dedicated photo site vs. a limited quality social media photo site.

Direct upload (no editing done):
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Instagram (with in-App editing to try to make them look better):
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I REALLY wish I had taken these with my DSLR, but the iPhoto images will have to serve as a reminder of the beautiful morning we had on Saturday…and a reminder to always bring at least one of my “real” cameras.

Doing

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An unused child’s chair, an empty cup, and empty shoes.

Where is the boy who should be sitting in his chair, wearing his shoes and asking for a refill of his drink?

Riding his tricycle, spinning, sliding, swinging,

Throwing some balls, chasing, yelling, prodding,

Picking some flowers, poking, pretending, jumping,

Exploring his world, running, laughing, playing.

Learning.

Doing exactly what he should be doing.

The empty chair, cup and shoes are a testament to a toddler who is discovering his environment.

And a testament to his mother who gave up asking him to sit in the chair for a nice photo a long time ago!

It is a joy to see the wonder and excitement when something new is catching his attention.

Last week it was yellow phase dandelions, this week it is “fuzzy” phase dandelions, next week it could be anything.

I do not, for one second, regret that he has not paused long enough to sit down in his blue chair for a nice photo with his drink and Lego Crocs!

I can’t wait to partake in his next adventure!

Traintastic Aspirations

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My son got a starter Chuggington Train set about six months ago and at first he couldn’t even stand to play with it.  He took the track apart, threw the trains around and got generally frustrated with it.  As parents who are familiar with his odd likes and dislikes regarding his toys, we put the train set away for a later date.  Forward to about three months ago, when I decided to try the train set again, this time on his toddler sized table.  And for about 20 minutes, he took the trains around and around the track with no problems!  Issue resolved, right?  Nope, don’t be too sure.  After a few days of playing nicely with the oval or round train set, our son went back to making the trains crash off the set and then got frustrated by it all, having a major toddler style meltdown.  So the set was put away again for a few weeks.

He started asking for the trains one day.  “Mamma, trains.  Mamma, Chuggington trains”.  So, rather than play with them, we watched videos of them – a bit in the hopes of him remembering the trains are supposed to stay ON the track.  Because once the trains come off his track, we have a toddler meltdown to contend with, even if they come off deliberately by said toddler’s own hands.  Oh, he learned a lot from watching Chuggington.  He learned all the names of the trains he DIDN’T have and all the types of buildings he DIDN’t have!  I thought he also learned to keep the trains on the track.

So, on a day when everything was going particularly smoothly, I relented and set up the little train set again.  And he played with it for a few minutes and then promptly put the two locomotive cars (Koko & Wilson, for those who are familiar with the show) in the center of the circle, along with Vee, the dispatcher/speaker character.  Then he walked away.  I was confused and a bit frustrated.  Didn’t he want to play with them?  Nope, he wanted to set them up and find a new toy.  This occurred each day for a bit – most days ending up with the trains and Vee in the center and the track looking barren.  But he still continued to remind us that he was missing trains and buildings.  Since he was actually playing nicely with them and not getting too frustrated, we relented and got more pieces.  More trains, more buildings, and more track.  My hubby is a train enthusiast, so if we were going to help build a train set, my hubby wanted it to be the best possible one.  Our son loves the new trains – and knows all the names (including the ones he is still missing) – and loves the new buildings.  With the few extra characters, we started trying to teach that even if he wanted the trains in the center, we might want to play with some of the trains ourselves.  Not that we hadn’t been working on the concept of sharing with him, but for some reason, it really hit home with the Chuggington set.  He started “allowing” us to play with a couple trains while his two trains remained in the center.  He could frequently be heard reminding us (or himself) “Spposed to share”!  It was so cute and we couldn’t help but relent and provide him with a few more trains and buildings and tracks.  For hubby or for our son?  I’m not sure which; maybe a bit of both.  So for a month or so, he has had the routine of bringing the trains in his room every morning, setting up the layout (well, that’s left to the adults, but he supervises) and then sometimes, he plays with them and sometimes, they sit in the center of the tracks.  In either case, eventually he does have some sort of frustration, but not a major meltdown like the first ones he had with the set.

Then there were two huge changes to the Chuggington style of play that made it more enjoyable.  First, he finally learned how to get the pieces to lock together consistently, which means he can help build!  And second, he decided that it was ok if he shared most of the trains!  The only issues remained when the trains derailed or crashed or were prevented in some manner from going through the intended route.  Again, even if it was caused by him on purpose, it often resulted in a meltdown.

Yesterday, he and I were playing with the train set and his blankets and pillows knocked over a whole section of track and the trains that were on it.  I  prepared for a meltdown.  I was mentally coming up with some imaginative thing that happened in Chuggington to cause the disaster…a landslide, a giant came to visit, even just thinking of yelling out for the rescue trains to come…anything to keep the play fun and less meltdowny (new word?).  And I paused and looked at him.  Instead of a meltdown, he was laughing!  He yelled out that they were now “pancakes”!  I was/am amazed and overjoyed that he moved past the frustration that he was having with the trains and made it fun, even when things didn’t go as planned!

I am sure we will still have frustrating Chuggington days, but I’m going to keep the word “pancakes” right on the tip of my tongue for those days, because maybe it will work again!  However our Chuggington play works out on a daily basis, I am thrilled that he has started to learn these three lessons:  Sharing is necessary, perseverance will usually pay off, and not everything is a meltdown-worthy disaster!  I think I might use the word “Pancakes” at the next toddler tantrum even if it is not precipitated by Chuggington issues and see how it goes!

Related to Chuggington frustrations, since we set up and break down the set each day, my hubby and I have been frustrated at the lack of layout plans to use to create a fun train set with all the buildings.  I found a few online, and a few from Tomy toys, but none of them were great (or they were too sprawling).  So I am adding some pics of our own layouts here in case other parents have similar issues.

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Camera’s Special Effects

So, now I’ve had my new camera for a few days and it has some really great features and a few really fun things that can be done with it.  I have always loved limited color photos, where one or two colors are highlighted and everything else is in grays.  I tried getting that effect in software editing many times and so often it comes out with too many “bleed” points.  So if my primary color was red, too many areas that were some variant of red got lost or something that shouldn’t read as red becomes red due to the lighting.  This new camera allows me to do exactly that.  It’s called a “selective color effect” and it allows me to choose up to 3 colors (and possibly a couple of ranges of colors for each color) to focus on and the rest becomes gray.  It also shows me the preview of what my picture will look like before I take it, so I can change the color slightly if something is missing from my color range.

It’s tough to do when taking spontaneous pics of my son, but it works beautifully on nature.  My dandelion header was taken using that effect.  I love juxtaposing the concept that a dandelion is just a weed with the fact that it stands out so beautifully in that image against the greyscale leaves beneath it.

Here is a pic that I didn’t adjust the color range on correctly and got half gray and half green leaves.  It was not the desired effect, but it looked cool, so I took the pic!

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Another thing that I love about my new camera is not really a special effect, it’s just something that I was never able to do with my automatic cameras.  Night Photography!  I love nighttime and the way everything looks so different and almost magical.  To be able to capture that on film is wonderful and I was able to get a few images, though to do a better job, I’ll need to pull out the tripod!  Below is last night’s moon behind the trees (around 9 or 10pm).

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First Post

I am a wife, a mother, a writer and an amateur photographer.  For Mother’s Day this year, I received a great new camera from hubby and son and it inspired me to create a blog and some other social media accounts to display my pics, writing and any other things I might feel like commenting on.

I have never blogged before, so I will see how this goes!  My first pics uploaded here will be with my old camera as I am still getting used to my new one!

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