My 5 Year Clickinversary

So two days ago it was my FIVE year anniversary with Clickin Moms! I can hardly believe it. When I first joined, I loved drooling over the progress threads, hoping one day I would have growth like that. Well, what better time to share than on my anniversary with the very group that was pivotal in my journey.

2011

I bought my first DSLR a few months before the birth of my first son in 2011. It was a Nikon D3100 and pretty early on I bought a 35mm 1.8 to go with it. I knew I loved that "blurry background" so I needed something more than just a kit lens. I threw that bad boy in aperture priority and was shocked that my images didn't come out they way I saw them with my own eyeballs. Why is it blurry? It's not blurry when I look with my eyes!  But instead of learning, I just keep shooting and getting frustrated.  

Because when you see an image on pinterest, it's super easy to recreate, right? 

If we're friends on Instagram, you probably know that I can't resist a good feet shot. Well apparently that obsession started early!

White balance, clarity, contrast OH MY!

2012

Natural light: GOOD  Tilted Horizon: BAD

I kid you not, I used to be so confused when people would talk about white balance and images looking too blue or too yellow. I seriously couldn't see it!

Heavens to Betsy the neon grass is hurting my eyeballs!

I remember being so amazed at this image. He was crawling towards a window and WOW what a difference good, natural window light can make. I still didn't know what I was doing, but was getting excited about seeing images that looked more like the ones I was wanting to create.

But even with glimpse of improvement, I still tried to take photos in our crummy living room light

I joined CM about a year after my son was born. I even remember how I found out about it! Someone had shared a post on FB from ClickinMoms promoting their new magazine, Click. You could comment to enter to win a free subscription to the magazine, and guess what? I WON! The magazine was completely over my little novice head, but I did join the forum right away and new a love affair was about to begin.  This was taken a few months after joining. I was a little overwhelmed by all the information, but I dove right in head first by scrolling to the very bottom of the tutorial posts and READ. THEM. ALL. I'm not even exaggerating. My son was a horrible sleeper, and this is what i would do while rocking him in his room trying to get him to go back to sleep.  I learned a few things right off the bat that were huge game changers for me.  Like just because my lens could go all the way to 1.8 doesn't mean I have to shoot at 1.8 all the time.  And shooting below a shutter of 1/250 is a bad idea for shaky hands and fast toddlers.

I finally got an eye in focus!  I was certain this shot was going to win me some awards. 

What are those colorful spots in the frame? My first "accidental" introduction to sun flare! I was so proud.

Guess who finally starting shooting in manual mode and never looked back! This girl! It was tough at first, but I was so determined to figure it all out.

2013

I was so inspired by all the beautiful self portraits I would see on the forum, so I thought I would give it a go. I'm pretty sure I was screaming at him like a lunatic to hug me while he sobbed.  To be fair, self portraits with my kids really haven't gotten any easier for me. Oh, I also discovered Lightroom at this point and also presets. Eek.

I had finally wised up little and started to seek out the pretty light in my home. I would usually plop him in front of a big window and just go to town. Playing around with some presets again. I was really digging the matte look at the time. I still do love matte in my images, but now it's a lot more subtle and balanced out with a bit more contrast.

This was the very first image I ever posted for serious critique on ClickinMoms. I was so proud of it. I got mostly nice comments, but it did help me realize I still had a lot to work on.

The Great Camera Upgrade of 2013!! My husband really wanted to buy a 1970ish Blazer, and I told him it would only be fair that if he bought it, I should be able to upgrade my camera. Well, we humored each other and each gave the other one the green light. He got his Blazer and I upgraded to a full frame! This was taken the first day I got my shiny new Nikon D600 in the mail. I was blown away at the difference. The blacks were blacker and the lights were lighter (aka dynamic range)! I had also been wanting to learn how to back button focus and when I was setting up my camera for the first time, that's how I set it up and I never looked back. Still a back button shooter to this day!

It was around this time I started to feel like I could stretch my creative wings just a little. I was interested in taking photos that were a little different than I had before and I was starting to see results I was happy with every so often.

I was starting to take a step back for some of my photos. This was completely new to me, and I was loving the new perspectives. Still going heavy with those matte presets at the time.

I am NOT a prop or theme type person, but don't tell my former self.  I remember working so hard on these photos and then realizing afterwards that I had set my ISO to 1000 when it could have been much lower. I pixel peeped and stressed over all that grain.  I cannot tell you how little I care about grain in my images now.  I shoot at ISO 6400 on the regular.

This day at the park felt like a big moment for me. My son played and played and I shot and shot. I'm pretty sure it was after seeing photos from this trip to the park that my husband gave me the "hey, you're starting to get pretty good" pep talk.  Cue mic drop.

The first image that made my heart swell. I wanted to recreate that feeling over and over. I was officially hooked. Also, really glad I started to tone down the matte just a little. 

This was when I knew I loved dappled light, but didn't know what to do with it. Stay tuned...

We moved to a new house with a big backyard! I was so excited for our new space. But it was half junky and half beauty and I was just a little lost on how to tackle it photography wise. It was also around this time that I started playing around with split toning in LR for some funky overall colors.  It was about this time that I tentatively started my photography business.  I practiced with a few friends first and then slowly but surely started taking clients at an alarmingly low rate.  I’m not sure I was entirely ready, but I moved forward full steam ahead.

2014

Mama got a new lens! I bought a 70-200 2.8 and it was love at first sight. I loved the types of images it was able to create and I was happy to have a new toy to play with!

Hey! There's a new baby in town! Because three weeks after giving birth is the perfect time to experiment with some self portraits, ha!

I learned pretty quickly that trying to take a decent sibling picture is no joke.

One of my first photos that got a little bit of attention from the photography world.  This was featured on FB by Let The Kids Dress Themselves.  I was over the moon.

Have I mentioned that my little fella had the best hair ever?

Getting a little better at this sibling photo thing.

Bright and airy is definitely not my thing now, but I hadn’t figured that out yet. 

Experimenting with christmas lights!  Thank you ClickinMoms tutorial!

2015

New lens day!  I got a 24-70mm 2.8 and loved experimenting with wide angle! 

This was around the time I signed up for Meredith Novario's workshop “Storymaking.”  I was a little overwhelmed, but truly learned a lot.  I hadn’t realized until then that most of my photos lacked a story and was looking forward to incorporating that.

I shot a silhouette on accident (thank you improper exposure) and fell in love with it right away.  I would come to love and shoot silhouettes frequently in the upcoming year.

2016

The first day of my 366.  I walked in and saw my son playing with legos and half-heartedly snapped a picture of it.  I’m so glad I did, because I continued to pick up my camera everyday from that point on for an entire year.  Next to joining Clickinmoms, this was the best thing I ever did for my photography. 

My sweet friend, Whitney, convinced me to join Instagram.  I had no idea how it worked, but she assured me it was like Facebook but with better photos and less political posts :)  So I signed up.  I used a few hashtags not really knowing why, but this was one of my first photos that was featured and I slowly started to figure everything out.  The community I discovered there is just amazing.  Supportive, talented and encouraging artists that I now call friends!

These next three photos were taken while I was enrolled in Emma Wood's Timeless class.  She really taught me to look for interesting light and introduced me to my beloved Lensbaby!  What a fun lens.  I still haven’t mastered it, but it is so fun to have when I’m in a creative rut.

This is a special image to me because it is my first (and only!) photo that has been published.  Today’s Parent (a Canadian magazine) reached out to me after they came across it on Instagram and asked if they could purchase it as the main image for an article they were doing on road trips.

In March I bought Meg Loek’s breakout The Sincere Storyteller.  I was so drawn to her style and her amazing use of low light, I was ecstatic to learn from her.

Because, feet.

This image isn’t really anything special, but it was taken a few minutes after I got the email informing me that I had made ClickPro, a goal I had for myself for a long time.  I literally screamed out loud when I got the email and my husband thought I was crazy town. 

Another special image for me as this was selected as one of National Geographic's Your Shot Daily Dozen images.

Thank you IG for all the gorgeous underwater images and giving me the push to try it out for myself!

I'm including this fantastic llama here to reward those of you who have stuck with me so far. :)

Learning to love accidents.  Missed focus images were starting to become some of my favorites.

Getting better at dappled light!

The next images are just a few taken over the course of my 366 project.  I had so much fun experimenting with different things like prisms and freelensing.  I learned so much about photography during this year and a whole new world was opened to me.  It was frustrating at times for sure, but I loved the feeling of pushing myself and stretching my creative muscles.

Taken on December 31, 2016.  Completed my 366 project!

2017

Not going to lie, I was a little nervous at the start of this year.  I spent the last year shooting like a mad woman, and while I was happy with where that took me, I knew I couldn’t keep that momentum up.  I was afraid I would l lose it all or that I would never feel motivated to pick up my camera.  So I made an effort to pick up my camera frequently, even if I wasn’t necessarily in the mood.

Okay, so I’m posting this one, not because it is a fantastic image, but because it is a humorous part of my photography journey.  This image broke my arm.  Literally!  Who stands in front of a speeding sled and just doesn’t move?  ME!  Apparently when you flip over the top of a sled that has crashed into you, it is not good for your bones.  Ha!!

A few favorites from this year so far.

This image was taken at Insta Inspire. I am so incredibly grateful that I was asked to speak and lead a shoot along at this inaugural retreat/meet up for the community of photographers on Instagram.  I got to meet so many of my IG friends in person who are from all over the world.  It was a dream come true for me!  The retreat was in Stamford, CT and this was taken on the shoot along that I had the pleasure of leading.

I’ll leave you with these shots that were taken within the last month or so.  If you’ve stuck with me, thank you, you deserve a medal!  I am so grateful for those who have made such an impact on me.  Whether it was writing a tutorial, leaving a comment on one of my pictures, or even just asking a question that I didn’t even know I needed to ask myself!  I'm looking forward to another five years of learning and growing with so many of my friends I've made along the way!  Cheers!

Insta Inspire 2017

On April 28 I left my three sleeping boys in bed and headed to the airport at 3:45 am.  Insane, right?  There's only one reason I would do something that crazy.  To meet up with all the photographers who I admire and am inspired by at the inaugural Insta Inspire retreat.  Held in Stamford, CT, I had the immense honor of speaking to the group and leading a shoot along.  It was a weekend filled with learning and laughter and I am already counting down the days until next year's event!  It was hard to leave my boys for the weekend, but I called the first day to check on them and they had popcorn and ice cream for lunch, so I think they did okay. :)

The very first night of the retreat we made quite the scene pulling up to the beach with a massive coach bus filled with eager photographers, and I'm not sure the locals were exactly happy to see us, but the location was too beautiful and the models were too precious for us to be discouraged.

My girl Whitney Williams leading a maternity shoot along at the beautiful Tod's Point in Greenwich, CT.

My girl Whitney Williams leading a maternity shoot along at the beautiful Tod's Point in Greenwich, CT.

Erica Bowton, the brains behind the retreat, shares some tips with attendees during her Friday night shoot along.

Erica Bowton, the brains behind the retreat, shares some tips with attendees during her Friday night shoot along.

I could use a lot more beach hair like this in my life.

I could use a lot more beach hair like this in my life.

I was sad and a little anxious to leave my family for the weekend, but a view like this can make a girl feel better real quick.

I was sad and a little anxious to leave my family for the weekend, but a view like this can make a girl feel better real quick.

Saturday was a jam-packed day of hands on learning with panels, presentations, and editing workshops, oh my!  I walked through my editing process to show attendees how I got from this image...

To this image!

Later in the afternoon, I spoke about how to "Beat the Boring" in your photography.  We started off with a fun photography personality quiz and then spent the next half hour or so talking through some things you can do with your shooting when you're feeling bored or in a rut.  We talked about incorporating emotion and humor into your photos, learning new photography tricks like the ring of fire and freelensing, how to change up your perspective and how to shoot and edit with deep shadows and silhouettes.

That evening I had the pleasure of leading a shoot along with about 13 other photographers.  It was the perfect evening to spend chasing a sweet brother and sister around on their bikes and capturing them playing and twirling in one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen.  

 

170429-501.jpg

And finally, all the instructors!  It's funny how we are all photographers with cameras always in reach, yet the only photo we got together was this iPhone snapshot!  Still, I'm grateful for it.  This was Friday night, and I know I'm not the only who got up at an absurd hour, so it's a wonder we were all even awake at dinner time. 

What a great time learning from these ladies and I am so thankful they took time out of their lives and away from their kids to spend the weekend with us!  Looking forward to the next time we are all together again!

Lens Love

I know, I know, "rock what you've got."  Awesome gear doesn't make an awesome photographer.  Stellar lenses don't always make for a stellar photo.  Would I know how to take a nice photo if you handed me an inexpensive kit lens?  Sure!  But boy, oh boy, do I love experimenting with fun, new lenses.  Of course I can't possibly own all the lenses that I swoon over, so I have discovered a little trick.  Whenever I'm itching for a new lens, I rent one!  All the fun of playing with a new lens without breaking the bank!  But first, here's a line up of the lenses that I do own and why I love them, so, so much

Tamron 70-200mm 2.8

This lens produces such beautiful images.  The type that I just can't get with any of my other lenses.  When shooting in the 135mm-200mm range, the compression of the background is just so gorgeous.  It's the absolute best lens for detail shots as well.  I originally didn't think I would use this lens much indoors since it is such a long focal length, but I use it inside as much as any other lens I own.

1/1000 f3.5 ISO200 (200mm)

1/1000 f3.5 ISO200 (200mm)

1/640 f4 ISO400 (155mm)

1/640 f4 ISO400 (155mm)

1/1000 f3.2 ISO800 {200mm)

1/1000 f3.2 ISO800 {200mm)

i/800 f4 ISO500 (200mm)

i/800 f4 ISO500 (200mm)

1/800 f3.5 ISO800 (100mm)

1/800 f3.5 ISO800 (100mm)

1/640 f4.5 ISO5000 (112mm)

1/640 f4.5 ISO5000 (112mm)

Tamron 24-70mm 2.8

I usually say that this lens is tied with my 70-200mm as my favorite, but it does seem like I reach for this one just a little bit more.  This is what they call a great walk-around lens.  For me, that basically means this is the lens I carry around for everyday shooting, when I leave the house, on vacations, etc.  It's so versatile and the wide angle at 24mm is so much fun to play with.

1/1600 f2.8 ISO1000 (24mm)

1/1600 f2.8 ISO1000 (24mm)

1/4000 f2.8 ISO800 (24mm)

1/4000 f2.8 ISO800 (24mm)

1/4000 f4.5 ISO160 (24mm)

1/4000 f4.5 ISO160 (24mm)

1/800 f4 ISO450 (24mm)

1/800 f4 ISO450 (24mm)

1/1600 f5 ISO250 (24mm)

1/1600 f5 ISO250 (24mm)

Nikon 50mm 1.4

I don't use this lens nearly as much as I do the first two.  I mainly use it for portraits when I'm shooting with clients, because I just love the shallow depth of field I can get with it.  I rarely use it with my kids, but when I DO think to pull it out with them, I'm never disappointed.  Although I don't use it as much as the others, I would be super sad to not have it in my line up anymore.

1/320 f2.5 ISO3200

1/320 f2.5 ISO3200

1/3200 f2 ISO100

1/3200 f2 ISO100

1/1000 f1.4 ISO100

1/1000 f1.4 ISO100

1/800 f16 ISO100

1/800 f16 ISO100

Lensbaby Edge 50

This is a fun, creative lens to play with.  Truth be told, I actually rented it first and had so much fun playing with it, I decided to buy my own.  It's nice that it's not a terribly expensive lens and it is great for getting out of a shooting rut.  It takes some getting used to though, that's for sure!  Manually focusing on wild and crazy kids is not for the faint of heart!

1/2500 ISO1200

1/2500 ISO1200

1/320 ISO400

1/320 ISO400

1/400 ISO3200

1/400 ISO3200

 

What I've Rented

Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art

I've heard such great things about Sigma's Art series.  The only thing holding me back from buying this one is that I already have this focal length covered with one of my favorite lenses (the 70-200mm). I was curious about being able to shoot at f1.4 at that length though, so I rented it for a weekend. It was a lot of fun to play with!

1/4000 f1.6 ISO400

1/4000 f1.6 ISO400

1/1600 f1.6 ISO320

1/1600 f1.6 ISO320

Nikon 16mm 2.8

I had been wanting to play with a fisheye lens for a while.  I had it for a long weekend, and while I did get some fun shots that I liked, I feel like I may need to rent it again to really get the hang of it.

1/400 f4 ISO6400 

1/400 f4 ISO6400 

1/320 f22 ISO200

1/320 f22 ISO200

So there you have it!  What's your favorite lens?  Need some ideas for the next time I get the itch!

Riding Planes Like a Boss

I may have packed 43 too many coloring books, 27 too many bags of candy and 13 too many new toys, but the boys now have their first plane ride under their belt!  I was so anxious for how they'd do on the plane and navigating through busy airports with us, but I totally underestimated how well they'd do.  Snacks and movies on the iPad?  Yes, please! 

 

Waiting on our plane.

Waiting on our plane.

Starting to get a little case of the crazies.

Starting to get a little case of the crazies.

We went through about four bottles of hand sanitizer on this trip (their hands are like magnets to anything and everything filthy - like bottoms of shoes).  

We went through about four bottles of hand sanitizer on this trip (their hands are like magnets to anything and everything filthy - like bottoms of shoes).  

That's the smile of a kid on his way to Disney World.

That's the smile of a kid on his way to Disney World.

Before he realized how fast airplanes go on take off. 

Before he realized how fast airplanes go on take off. 

After he realized how fast airplanes go on take off.

After he realized how fast airplanes go on take off.

Snacks, drinks and movies for the win.

Snacks, drinks and movies for the win.

The Focused Photographer

Wow, what a year. I picked up my camera every single day in 2016. Some days I struck gold and others it felt like pulling teeth trying to get a photo I was happy with. It was both incredibly gratifying and insanely frustrating. The growth I saw in myself as a photographer was immeasurable and for anyone wanting to push themselves in ways they didn't even know possible, I wholeheartedly recommend a 365 project.  

But now it's time to move on! I desperately wanted a project in 2017 that would continue to push me to be better, but I knew that another 365 project was unreasonable (I mean, I literally have 10s of thousands of photos from 2016 to cull and edit). I wanted to really focus on improving in certain areas and not just try new things willynilly like I did in 2016. That's how The Focused Photographer was born. In 2017, I have decided to dedicate a full month to learning and practicing different types of photography and techniques. No pressure to shoot daily, but just a commitment to myself to focus on the technique for that month and practice it whenever I pick up my camera (while still shooting what and how I normally do, of course).  If you'd like to follow along with this project, I'd love for you to join us as we learn together over on our little corner of Instagram. 

https://www.instagram.com/the.focused.photographer/

JANUARY - get in the frame

FEBRUARY - multiple exposures

MARCH - freelensing

APRIL - video

MAY - prism

JUNE - fisheye/wide angle

JULY - underwater (alternative: reflections)

AUGUST - panning/motion blur

SEPTEMBER - ring of fire

OCTOBER - film

NOVEMBER - lensbaby (alternative: portraits)

DECEMBER - creative editing

 

Getting In The Frame - He won't always need me to help him wash his hands.

Getting In The Frame - He won't always need me to help him wash his hands.