Friday, July 31, 2009

don't give up on your photos!

i've been helping one of my fabulous seniors from youth group with her senior project on photography. last night, we had an editing session where i got to show off some fun tricks in photoshop, but we mainly focused on picnik's features. picnik has lots of free basic features and then offers their premium features at a real decent price. i love using them for my blog post pictures and adding text or graphics, but their filters are also really good for boosting colors, converting to black and white, or adding film grain or vignettes to the photos.

the big thing we talked about is changing the way you view your photos or photo-taking environments. we often assume that we want it to be a bright sunny day, but harsh shadows on the face and squinty eyes can ruin a good photo. i would rather have an overcast day and then brighten in post-processing without worrying about the shadows. example below--with the geese. jessica said, "it was about to rain and it's just such a blah photo." not anymore!

we also used cropping to help focus the picture. we talked about composition and the rule of thirds and using a purposeful crop to choose the subject. black and white also brings out the details. i'm a HUGE fan of black and white.

i love what we did with this one. straighten the horizon line, first of all, but then make a purposeful crop to focus on the water, saturate the blues and reds, and put the subject off center outside of the rule of thirds. just awesome.
and then taking those ideas to human subjects. saturate, brighten and boost the contrast, help focus the portrait to waist up with a good crop, and then use blemish tools to retouch the face. i like slightly off-center subjects for my portraits, especially one with this textured background.

picasa is also a great free program that offers basic editing tools and helps organize your photos as well. you download picasa to your computer instead of loading your pictures on a website, so for some people, it's easier to work.

there is so much out there for editing, and as good as your pictures may be SOOC (straight out of camera) they can be so much better with a few little tweaks! i love editing pictures now and am always looking for some new (free) photoshop actions to try or styles to imitate. as much as i love discovering my own style, i learn a lot by trying to recreate other photographers' work.

so give it a shot. take the photo where the facial expression is just right, but maybe you wish it was a little brighter, the colors popped a little bit more--or maybe it's the opposite--the picture is overblown and washed out. make a few tweaks and have your regular old photo become a work of art :)
(all photos by jessica--isn't she great?)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

this is a random one--

so bear with me.

i don't have any exact plan for how all of this will come out, but it eventually will and that's when i'll know how all these little bits of information floating around in my head will come out in writing.
we had a great time meeting our small group out at sunday in the park earlier this week. pepper and i have been to several of these concerts, but this time justin came with us and we joined our group for steel drums and reggae. i don't have any pictures because pepper was awful and barking and lunging and let's just say she put the "terror" in "terrier" that evening.


we tried again the next night when justin had to work late and we went out to the church league softball championship game. she did slightly better, but i did have to explain to several of the toddlers why "the doggie had to go in time-out" after she continually tugged on her leash and shook her head back and forth like she was viciously tearing the fibers apart stitch by stitch.

and so we walked around the field trying to get her energy out and watched as our team went on to victory. yay!
pepper will continue to have her outings with hopes that her behavior will improve. fingers crossed.


we got blueberries this weekend. they were huge.

my thumbnail for reference.

(see, i told you this was random. seriously, many apologies. but you were warned.)

in the past few days, i've booked two more weddings for 2010. i continue to be amazed at how many new clients or potential clients are coming in, and i foresee the fall being crazy busy with family sessions and senior portraits and bridals and engagements and... wow. the thought of it is exciting and a little overwhelming and i still have those moments where i can't believe how quickly this has picked up.

at the same time, my LCSW stuff is COMPLETE and turned in and now i just wait for my certificate to come in the mail and then that's it. i'm done. unless i want another certification (EMDR, anyone?) or my doctorate (cause how cool would that sound? dr. lauren... hmmm...) i'm there and wow. three years, a clinical exam and 3,000 hours later, the P-LCSW becomes LCSW and we're done.

and so i've got two really cool income-producing ventures, one which is my "career", the other which is my "artistic/creative outlet" that just so happens to earn money, and i love it. so long as they remain balanced and mutually conducive to maintaining my sanity.

cause we all like sanity.
and i love how the two interact, actually, because understanding people allows you to photograph them in a way that captures their true personalities.

working with children allows you to anticipate how they move, the adorable facial expressions they show in those quick moments.

keeping a cool head and handling a crisis situation can actually be extremely helpful at a wedding when the bride is about to lose it or the groomsmen can't figure out how to fold their pocket squares.

and patience, attention to detail and wanting to find the beauty or goodness in everything--well, that's what you need when you have 500 images to edit and about a dozen new actions that you want to try out, while also producing images that you know your client will love.

it all comes together. it all makes sense. and it's definitely working for me.

(on a side, but related note--if we discussed doing photos this fall, go ahead and contact me about scheduling some potential dates. i'm trying to get my calendar set so i can fit everyone in and also plan other vacation days/weekends away appropriately. thanks!)
we have two exciting events coming up this week--the coldplay concert on thursday in raleigh--soooo excited! this has ranked up as one of my top concert experiences in the past, and i cannot wait to see their show this year. in 2005, the big focus was the video wall that they used for the "speed of sound" video, and we're curious to see if they still travel with that or have something new. regardless, it should be an awesome concert and we've been waiting for this since we bought the tickets back in march.

and then we're headed down to myrtle beach for the weekend to spend some time with my family. mom and grandma will be down there all week, and alan, rachel, justin and i will be joining them for the weekend. also excited about this, just for the sake of getting down to the beach and spending some time with the family.

and who doesn't love myrtle beach?

okay, i think that's it.

hold on, has it been random enough?

gilmore girls re-runs make me happy.

trips to target to wander help clear my head.

and i really want sushi for dinner tomorrow night.

alright, that fulfills the randomness.

later :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

i heart faces: at the beach!

it took me a little while to find a picture for this week's theme, which was kinda surprising considering how much we're at the beach during the summer. i guess i like to take a lot of landscape photos there :)

but i saw this one and after a little bit of tweaking in photoshop (love both pioneer woman's and coffee shop's actions!) i thought the colors just popped.

this is my darling husband, justin, and his nephew, tyler, in the background. i love both of their expressions--they were having a blast boogie-boarding and caught some great waves that day.

check out the rest of this week's beach pictures at "i heart faces"!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

quick post

i normally don't post twice in a day, but this'll be a quick one. just some photographic evidence of my day.

the goods i snagged from two different thrift stores. three chairs and a bar stool for $25. i plan on keeping the black chair the same, just gorilla gluing a few joints, and then painting the other three pieces white and then distress them a little bit. all planned for use in upcoming photo shoots.

the dime-sized hole that's now in my bumper thanks to a rear-end hit and run near the downtown area. he bumped me at a light, so i pulled over immediately after it turned green, expecting him to follow. he didn't. and my bumper took the screw off of his front vanity plate, apparently. and remember that house that was the bane of my existence? it's now the envy of the neighborhood with this massive deck that they're building. it's definitely twice the size of the normal decks that are built around here, and i'm betting a much better quality. my dad took one look at our deck after we moved in and said, "the people who built this didn't really care about how long the deck will last." and we agreed, knowing that it was a crew that probably put up six decks a day during a building spree in the neighborhood. heck, we had to get them to come back and put in nails that actually hit the joists, instead of being an inch or two off like they were the first time.
but this deck? it's gonna be nice...

alright, that's it for now.

actually staying home...

we're at home for the first time in a few weekends, and i'm loving it. as much as i am a traveler, sometimes you just need a few nights at home to rest, take care of the mundane stuff, and relax with my husband and the animals.

pepper cooperated with me earlier in the week, and i was able to get some of the great macro shots. i love the texture on her nose, her glossy brown eyes, and the cute folds of her ear.

justin's been at home all week for "vacation" and has been extremely productive around the house. he's also been enjoying some quality time with the animals, and those moments where pepper and milo will actually come together for a common interest (in this case, pretzels.)
and then they do their own part of helping clean the house. like yesterday, when pepper assisted with wiping down the front door... last night, we continued with the summertime vacation theme and headed out for a kinston indians game. it'd been a year since i had gone to a game, and justin had actually never been to one of their games. there were plans for a group going from church, but the actual details came together at the last minute and we knew we wanted to go, so we went ahead and made plans to go with our buddies johnnie and heather (and johnnie's connections got us free tickets!) we had a great time hanging out with them and watching an exciting game--the indians won!

afterwards, they had fireworks and i have to admit--they were awesome! better than the ones we saw for the 4th of july, honestly. it was a long fireworks show with lots of variety, and the crowd loved it!we ended the night with a quick trip to mcdonald's to grab a snack and let the boys reminisce. justin and johnnie go way back, and it was fun to hear them talk about memories of the past few years and some of the crazy stuff they and their friends did way back when during the college years.

and now it's a lazy saturday. and i'm loving every minute of it.

how about you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

bits and pieces

the cup hooks are up! what do you think?

these two were happy to see me come home last night, especially sans pepper. their bubbles will burst in a couple of hours when justin and pepper roll in.
and i don't know that southern connecticut would claim this alumnus, honestly. (click on the picture for a larger view.)
that's all for now.

Monday, July 20, 2009

family reunion

so our 2nd full day up in west virginia started off with some quality time for pepper dog. she has had the rare opportunity to stay in the room with us at night, and even though she still sleeps in her kennel, she does enjoy getting up on the bed with us and snuggling.

(blurry, i know, but i like it.)
we got ready and headed out for the reunion in the late morning. we didn't want to arrive too early, so we stopped down at the local general store--appropriately named "bayer necessities." i was singing the jungle book song before we made it out of the car!
and me with the bear. i had to ask the woman inside if they were really named "bayer," and they are. what a clever name! i picked up some apple butter and have all intentions of enjoying it with some biscuits later on this week...

then it was on to the reunion. i'll be honest, i'd been dreaming about this potluck lunch since we crossed the west virginia border...the food was delicious, and i got to spend some time browsing the books about the geneaology for justin's maternal grandfather's family (got that?) i wrote down a lot of the necessary information and also learned who i could contact for more details if i need them.

then it was time for all of the pictures--they take a photo of each family group that's there every year and have them all in scrapbooks.
and then--the games! i'll admit, after the first reunion i attended, i was a little wary of the games for the grown-ups. the first year was a "newlywed" type game where men and women took turns answering questions about their better halves, and then the rest of the group came back and had to see if their real answers matched what their partners said. some of the questions were a little...colorful, and it was quite an introduction to the family. this year, however, we played it safe with relay races!

and heather and i managed to get roped into a pudding eating contest where we both lost and regretted the consumption of snack pack chocolate pudding on top of our already-full stomachs.
after all the pudding was cleaned up and many many white elephant gifts were chosen, it was time to head home. we had pizza for dinner and then spent time out at the bonfire, enjoying the chilly west virginia air. it was the perfect end to my brief weekend up there. this morning, heather and i piled into the civic and made the trip in eight and a half hours--almost unheard of in the summer when we usually get bogged down on 95 with vacation traffic. justin, his mom and pepper will be coming home tomorrow, and i've spent the evening tonight getting caught up on some TV, blog-reading and dish-washing. i'm still not thrilled with spending the night by myself, but since it's only one night, i think i can handle it :) i've just gotten out of the habit from when i lived on my own, and back then, it was just a little one-bedroom apartment. i feel like this house is massive when it's just me and the cats. (they are quite thrilled, by the way, to have me all alone. no husband, no dog--it takes them way back.)

alright, time to head towards bed. later, y'all!

i heart faces: feet!

when i first heard that this week's theme was feet, i couldn't help but think of this photo. this is a family with three boys under the age of 5 (well, when this picture was taken. the oldest just turned 5 a few weeks ago) and their dad is known for wearing converse chucks everywhere. they showed up for their family portrait session all in chucks, and i thought it was the cutest thing. i love the rolled-up cuffs on their jeans, how one pair is in motion, ready to run (and he was! we chased him around that day and had a hard time getting a shot that wasn't blurry) and the little baby chucks up on the bench.

the mom loved it, too. this shot is hanging above their fireplace!

make sure you head over to "i heart faces" to check out the other entries for feet this week!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

wild and wonderful

so we're in west virginia for the weekend. well, me for the weekend, justin for a few days longer (speaking of which, i'm open to plans on tuesday and/or wednesday while i'm husband-less this week.) today, we had a cook-out for his dad's side of the family, complete with birthday celebration for his nephew. it's actually pretty cool to see river all grown up--the first summer i came up with justin, river's mom mandy (justin's stepsister) was pregnant with him. now we're celebrating his 4th birthday!
it was a delicious cook-out, with ribs, hamburgers, hotdogs and all of the sides. we also have a small pack of dogs up here, with 5 dogs running around among all the guests. pepper had a blast playing with a humongous kick-ball sized tennis ball that we found inside. and the popular puppy was a tiny pomeranian named "mi shu" (apparently polish for "my teddybear"--haven't verified this yet. i still want to call her moo shoo, like the chinese dish.) she's just a few pounds, cute and fluffy, and was passed between the two young girls there like a baby doll or stuffed animal.

of course, we sang to river and had him blow out his candle...
and then got ready for the water activities!


you have to understand, it barely reached the mid-70's today. i went from shorts and a t-shirt to a jacket...and then jeans... and eventually a fleece hoodie. this weekend feels more like october in NC than anywhere to close to july. but water activities were promised, so water activities were had.

the family had just recently bought a huge inflatable water slide for the kids, so that was up and ready to go. this slide used water from the hose, so it was probably closer to 50 degrees. for whatever reason, justin had to try it out, and of course--i had to document this. river also wanted to get in on the action and controlled one of the cannons at the bottom.

so down justin went...
and there's not a second picture to this series because it took about half a second for justin to reach the bottom of that slide, going much faster than any of us predicted. the slide also leans slightly to the right, and justin hit the bottom pool, kept going and bowled over river so that they both ended up on the ground in the grass! river's mouth apparently caught justin's shoulder, too, cause justin had a couple of teeth marks there and one of river's teeth was slightly bloody.

but after everyone was checked out and it was deemed that no one was too terribly hurt... there was revenge to be had.

like river completely soaking justin with his cannon...
and making another attempt at a slide (this time with him feet first and river on the other side--justin still bounced over the wall, but caused less harm this time.)so after experiencing 50 degree temps on the slide, the 76 degree water in the pool was toasty warm. it was actually warmer than the air temperature! justin first got in with river, and after much coaxing, i joined them, too. (i also got splashed a great deal while taking pictures from outside the pool and was already pretty wet.)

justin got out of the pool before i did and thought it would be funny to put pepper up on the side to see what she did. she whined and paced back and forth, looking at me in the pool and trying to figure out how to get to me. finally, justin stepped up on the ladder and put her in the pool. her instincts took over and she swam over to me, and then swam back to the ladder where justin was. i won't say that she necessarily enjoyed it, but i think it was a good experience and maybe over time, she'll come to enjoy it more.
all of these pictures are on flickr, and i'll be honest--i love the colors and facial expressions in them! click on over and check them out (and the collages can always be viewed larger if you click on them, too.)

after such a long day, we were all worn out and tired. we went down the hill to visit justin's grandfather (he lives about 50 yards away at the bottom of the hill below justin's dad's house) and listened to him tell old stories about his years in the army during WWII and about growing up in west virginia. all of this reminded me of my new year's resolution about doing a family tree. we're headed out to justin's mom's family reunion tomorrow afternoon, and i realized that this was the perfect opportunity to do some research for justin's family. the reunion we're going to tomorrow has an awesome scrapbook and several family members that are very interested in geneology, so that shouldn't be a problem getting some key pieces of information there. we'll try to get some basic facts from justin's grandfather tomorrow night, and anything i don't get, justin will try to finish up with later on this week while he's here on his own.

so now i'm off to finish up some reading and get into bed. i'm hoping to catch up on the sleep i missed out on last night after we arrived around 1 am. busy day tomorrow! later, y'all :)

9th place is better than no place!

pepper dog and justin got 9th place in the "i heart faces" pets category this week!

if you haven't joined in and are interested, next week's theme is about feet--no faces! but i think i have some options and will be keeping an eye out for potential photo ops this weekend....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

works for me!

i think it's "rocks in my dryer" who does "works for me wednesday," and though i've never participated, i have read about some pretty good ideas of how creative people can get to solve basic household problems.

*edit: it's not "rocks in my dryer" anymore but now "we are THAT family", which i didn't follow before, but might now. but just FYI if you want to find more "works for me wednesday"*

i've been making a conscious effort to accessorize more at work. with as many girls as we have at the office, we all enjoy shopping and i've found myself paying more attention to my earrings and necklaces instead of keeping the same things on all the time. one of my problems, though, is that i can easily spend 5 or 10 minutes in the morning untangling a necklace or trying to find the mate to an earring. frustrating and definitely a wrench in the whole "accessorizing" plan.

so i was at the dollar tree, there for my weekly shopping trip (seriously, i go about once a week, if not twice. i LOVE the dollar tree for work supplies and those random things i find just browsing) and they have school supplies out. i saw these desk organizers and thought that i could possibly put it to a better use than organizing our mail. besides, we already have one of those for that.
perfect! the wire mesh is great for post earrings or hooks, and then there's plenty of space for lining up the dangly earrings.

now about these...
i'm thinking i'll add a row of cuphooks on the tub wall for hanging up the necklaces. they're usually pretty inexpensive at lowes' or home depot, and i can just screw them in the wall without using the drill (though i know how to use the drill--years of habitat for humanity taught me well.)

so what creative ways have you found to organize things at home?

and more importantly, where do you like to shop for fun jewelry? always up for some new shopping spots for good deals on jewelry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

i couldn't help myself.

it was $3 at wal-mart.

and yes, it says dog-a-licious. with a strawberry. not quite sure what that means.

but doggoneit, she's cute.

Monday, July 13, 2009


this is a very media-heavy post. hence the reason it's taken me a little while to get it pulled together, and of course--there are more pictures on flickr.

so, thursday afternoon we left for kingsfest, a 3 day christian concert series at kings dominion near richmond, va. we took the ever-reliable bus, which actually pretty comfortable with the cool breezes and overcast skies. there was also a 15 passenger van pulling our luggage trailer and a couple of SUVs in tow. of course, we started off with a group prayer...
and managed to make it to richmond without too many issues, traffic or otherwise. at one of our stops, i noticed this unique beverage and had to take a picture in pure wonder--sparkling green tea with ginger ale?
needless to say, i wasn't brave enough to try it.

we stopped at mcdonald's for a quick dinner before hitting the park for the first night of concerts, and as we came back out to the bus and prepared to leave... she wouldn't start. we quickly got all of the kids shuttled over to the park on the other vehicles while the chaperones sat around and did what we do best... killed time on our cellphones.
eventually, we did make it over to the park, leaving the bus behind in the capable hands of some of the parents who came along, who were quickly calling mechanics in the area. the bus's battery had already been replaced, and it was eventually determined it was an alternator problem. we were also able to borrow a bus from the church where we were staying to shuttle us home that evening (and eventually to the park the next morning while our bus was getting fixed.) the rest of our group made it over in time for a quick ride on a rollercoaster and then over to watch the last two concerts of the evening.
rather than adding more pictures than i already did, i made a collage of some of my favorite band photos. we saw five full concerts while we were there, with relient k the first night, skillet and switchfoot the 2nd night, and david crowder band and newsboys the 3rd night. there were many other bands that performed, but with concerts starting at 3 and going until 10 every night, it just wasn't possible to see them all!
relient k was awesome, with lots of energy and a sound similar (in my opinion) to ben folds. i hadn't heard a lot of them before, but i recognized several songs and have them on my itunes list to get a few more.
skillet is a favorite among the youth group, and honestly, they have an edgier sound than what i typically listen to. however, watching the crowd react to them and listening to their lyrics, i appreciated their style of music and the fact that it appeals to a group that might not get excited over chris tomlin or other "happy, shiny" christian artists. they rocked out and had the crowd rocking with them, and i thought it was so great that these tough looking guys with tattoos, these punk teens, people who you wouldn't normally think of as those who "enjoy christian music"-- were jumping up and down, head-banging and jamming out to some awesome music with quality lyrics. and that was cool to me.
(they do have a violinist and cellist in the group, with some killer string sections in their songs, especially when they're being raised up on platforms--top row, left photo)
switchfoot is probably one of the better known "mainstream" bands that played. john foreman, their lead singer, was so entertaining and made an appearance out in the audience that had everyone rushing down to the front (bottom middle photo in the collage.) he also climbed on top of their huge speakers, twice (bottom right photo) and put on a great show with lots of their hit songs and some new stuff.
david crowder band was one of the main reason i came to kingsfest. i saw him perform before in greenville and loved the concert. it was probably one of the few concerts we saw that felt like worship--and that's what crowder does best. lots of audience involvement with singing and moving, and just some of the best praise music around. he brought out his specially-made guitar hero guitar, complete with the mario brothers "coin sound button" (left photo on 3rd row) and played a whole song on it. amazing!
and finally, newsboys. i remember going to see newboys in middle school and the drummer who played on a revolving platform. honestly, i hadn't heard much of them since then, but they just got a new lead singer who used to be the lead singer of dc talk (of "jesus freak" fame) and with that--we had songs from both groups that took me way back. they do have some new stuff out, but it was awesome to hear some of their older songs--and they came out into the audience for that set, too, for that (middle photo on the 3rd row.)

so, that's the concerts. now... the rides!

kings dominion reminded me a lot of carowinds (that we visited around this time last year following alan and rachel's wedding)--an older park with some new rides, but very little cohesion between the rides and the "themed" areas. it's just a hodge podge of stuff that hung around for the past thirty years, with some newer thrill rides thrown in to keep the coaster riders happy. they also just recently lost the paramount affiliation and joined in with cedar fair (cedar point's company) so a lot of their rides that had movie themes are now just kinda randomly named. but they do have a decent waterpark included, and between that and the fact that there were long lines, we had plenty to do to fill up two full days in the park.
one of my favorite coasters was the "flight of fear" which was an indoor coaster that used magnetic energy to blast you off into an almost completely dark ride. kinda like "space mountain," only with loops and corkscrew turns. i videoed kristi and her sister kara taking off for their ride.

saturday, we did a few last minute rides on the less-popular coasters and then spent the afternoon in the waterpark. before heading out for our last dinner, my small group of kids i had collected decided to take the elevator up the eiffel tower in the center of the park. i got some nice shots from up top and used picnik to point out a few of the landmarks.
and finally, the group shot. this is everyone who came with us, including kids, sponsors and parents. we are so grateful for the parents who came along to help! with their hard work, we only had to pay for the two meals on our travel days. the rest were prepared by the parents and then they helped us pack bag lunches to take in the park with us. also, with the bus situation, they gave up their own time to help get the bus fixed and make sure we had a safe ride home. and just in general, they're awesome. so--thanks, parents!

there are no picture from the last day. i like to think of it as "the day we'd prefer to forget." we stayed at fairmount christian church in mechanicsville, va, and they were wonderful hosts. we camped out in spare rooms at night and showered in their locker room facilities next to their gymnasium. we planned on staying for worship on sunday morning, but we had to be packed up and out by 8 am. this meant getting the kids up around 6:30, having all of their things in the trailer and making sure they ate breakfast by then. we had some time to kill, so the guys were outside playing basketball (even though we were all exhausted!) and one of our sponsors, billy, dunked the ball during a game of HORSE and came down on his ankle wrong. next thing you know, he's headed to the ER with a fractured ankle. at the same time, one of my girls informs me that she's been throwing up all morning and hasn't been able to keep anything down. we decide to do our own short devo, join the 9:30 service for songs and make it through communion--then load up the bus and van to start the drive home. many stops and 5 hot, long hours later--we finally get home.
i got a shower and crashed, doing nothing productive for the rest of the night. it was a great trip, but man, it wore me out! i loved spending that time with the sponsors and our awesome group of teenagers. they really did well for a trip with such unstructured time away from adults and the number of check-ins that we had them doing.

so, now it's back to the grindstone. and getting ready for my brief trip up to west virginia for the livengood family reunion (justin's mom's family.) another long car ride, but i'm excited to get some mountain time in.

now--what did you do this weekend?