Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Word on Dad(s)

I couldn't let Father's Day pass without a word about my dad and my husband, a new dad. Naturally, I'm not keen on posting family pics-- too personal, you see, and I believe in protecting the privacy of my family, who didn't sign up for this whole blog thing. But of course, I have a million pictures of them. Snap happy daughter slash wife slash mama, you see. Don't even get me started on how many pictures I have of my son. One of my friends slash coworkers tells me I should not be surprised should Oliver start calling the camera 'mama'.

My dad is a scintillating talker. He's sharp and witty and the poop disturber of the party. Dad has pulled a lot of pranks in his day, and I'm sure there are things he's done that he hasn't fessed to we his family. Dad's also the epitome of manager and it's that sharp tongue that lays down the law; don't even try arguing with him. His style of debating just ain't for you. Something I'd forgotten about my dad was just how much he loves kids and playing around-- forgotten until I saw how much joy Oliver brought him, and all that kid can do right now is drool. It makes me think of how much fun Dad must have had with my sister and I when we were little. I think we got big too fast for him. I remember when I was a teenager, a pair of brothers in the neighbourhood would hang about the garage just to talk to Dad. He got such a kick out of showing them how to use the lawnmower or talk about whatever project he had on the go. Once, he even offered to bring them to the hardware store. He loves teasing the kids at the camp he and my mom stay at. When we were kids, my dad used to leave post-it notes with messages scrawled on them when he went on business trips.  When I first started university and began to doubt whether my major would make my parents proud, it was an e mail from my dad that encouraged me to go for it. When I made stupid decisions, it was my dad who crumpled up the 'debts' for all the favours (and dollars) I owed and let me start fresh.  I don't remember word-for-word the speech my dad made at my wedding, but I do remember being touched by it. Yep, my dad has always believed in me. We may not agree on everything, but he's a big fan. So am I.

My husband is a brand spanking new dad. I'm sure this terrifies him on some level, but he's so good at it-- being a dad, that is, not being terrified. His special time is giving our wee pooper  prince his nightly bath. Oliver loves it so much we only have to say the word "shampoo" and the kid breaks out in giggles. New Dad lets New Mom sleep in on weekends so she can preserve and conserve her sanity for the week. We don't have a whole lot of family memories as of yet (some), but I am sure this is a byproduct of sleep deprivation-- not that sleeplessness has prevented us from making memories, but from remembering them at all. This is why I take so many countless pictures of my son, so that we can look upon them and encourage memories to the surface. Or make some up.Whatever works.

Photograph your family, people. You don't have to be good at it. They don't have to be genius, but they will be your memories. Pictures can indeed jog a fuzzy mind. My mother used to write information on the back of pictures, back when people actually developed their pictures... or better yet, make your own photo book. Most drug stores have a photo lab. You can type your memories right in the photo book. And remember, crop the images so you don't have stupid stuff in the background and just zoom in on the faces, the actions, the smiles, the eyes. You don't need all that extra lawn or your messy living room in the shot, just focus in on the people. That's what the crop feature in Photoshop is for! Slap them on a wall in a jumble of eclectic and random frames. That's what the staircase wall is for: a collage of all the faces you love. It was the best wall in my family's house, that family photo wall, and I can promise you that for all the art and fine photography you frame and hang, your family wall will become your favourite, too. Seriously. You'll find yourself staring at it on your way up or downstairs, arms full of laundry or homework or a cup of tea before bed, and looking at those faces and remembering.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Okay, another site I'm sending you to. It's a video. Wait. Don't leave. It's a video about a photographer and photography. Tres cool. Yeah, it's Japan related (are you sensing a theme?) but don't let that bug you. It's beautiful. And about photography. I'm not saying you have to like it. But you might. So... Go. Watch

P.S. Thanks, Omiyage, for the tip... (Hey, folks! If you're feeling Asian inspired after watching the video about photography, check out Omiyage to get all crafty. Or my Japan galleries. Lots of images there... Okay, shameless, blatant plugging is over now.) Go watch the video. Then go shopping.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To the Letter of the Word

My son's name is Oliver. He's lucky he has the wall space of a bathroom in his room, or otherwise mommy would be covering it in cute Papyrus cards framed in cheap white Ikea frames. But when Oliver gets a bigger room, I know exactly what's going to be on the wall other than a whole lot of magnetic chalkboard paint (and it'll be way more personal than the adorable aforementioned Papyrus cards).

It's not hard, or spendy, to personalize your kid's room if you have just a little imagination. While visiting a small town that shall not be named (perhaps I should type it like they do in Jane Eyre or all those Austen novels...--shire...) , I happened to snap this photo, and it hit me. I can do more of this and make a really, really fun Oliver collage. We happen to live in a part of town in -shire that has a neighbourhood called Oliver, which naturally makes shooting Oliver signs really, really easy for us. We're planning on an excursion on the weekend if the weather holds, and by the end of the day, we ought to have a fabulous and eclectic (and hopefully colourful or textural) group of Oliver images that will someday grace his future big-boy room.

But what happens if your kid's name isn't Oliver? Or it is, and you don't live near the Oliver section of -shire? Well, you could buy my Oliver images off the webstore... Yes... But, don't limit yourself. Start looking for shapes that look like letters and spell out words. Like this. It's an S, get it? Get it? And you don't have to get all matchy matchy with colour, either. Just convert to black and white and play with the contrast until you get the look you're aiming for.

Lazy? Busy? No worries. These gals here have already done it for you. I recommend just buying the pics and not the frame-- it ain't hard to buy a frame (or frames) to go with your alphabet photography, and it's cheaper... not to put these girls out of business or anything... You'll also want to look at how your letters look together-- are they all dark, have you mixed your mediums and textures (rope, stone, iron, glass, that sort of thing...) and, are they all the same 'shade' of black and white? Keep in mind, kids, that not all blacks and whites are the same. Some are redder or bluer than others, and when you put them together, you'll wonder why it all looks a little off. I highly recommend the Alphabet Photography website, but I also recommend you take your time going through the galleries to get just the right balance of shapes, textures, and 'colour'.

My hubby and I have Y heart A framed up on our family wall (aka eclectic yet charming jumble o' family photos), as well as our 3-letter last name, and I'm working on selecting OLI for our wee Oliver. Or perhaps his initials. I can't decide which. (Yeah, I'm not industrious enough to go out hunting all those letter shapes when it's already been accomplished for me, and at such a reasonable price of just $5 a print... though unfortunately they don't do bigger than 4x6...)  Either way, Oliver's room will have a fabulous collage of Oliver images, and the family wall will bear all our names and such. I've also bought initials and hearts for wedding presents and anniversary presents. It's a really affordable and yet beautiful, personal way to celebrate somebody. So what are you waiting for? Pick up your camera and start looking for opportunities... or, if you're the busy sort, shop online. I've already given you two fun webstores to explore (Aimless Photography and Alphabet Photography) so you've got no excuse!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Must Share

This guy really excites me. I mean, I adore photography. You can have really crisp oh-so-realistic you feel like you're there images, and then you have the people who get playful... I wanted to share this fellow's photostream with you because the things he shoots inspire me. I'd love to hang some of it on my wall, although I think we live in a smallish place on purpose so that I can't go hog wild and frame everything I want to...

Anyway, check it out here. Seriously. Go.


It's summer, or at least here, something is masquerading around under the guise of summer, and it's the season, folks, that other folks (perhaps yourself) like to go and hit the antique stores. Well, you may bring your wallets stuffed with cash, but isn't there something you're forgetting? Camera, people, camera. There is no better opportunity than a barn stuffed full of oldies but goodies (not to mention some hit or miss lighting) to practice your skills. And hey, if you don't walk away with a 200-year-old chair at a steal, maybe you can steal some fabulous images. Whether you pick up a gem or not, whether you sniff out that bargain or drool on something horrendously overpriced, the day will never be a bust if you are sporting your camera. Want to have a double antique whammy? Bring a vintage camera. Something from the 80s. Or older. Shoot the old with the old.

I have hit but only one antique shop in this province, and it wasn't even the big'un. My mother came to visit and spent the better part of two full days in the Antique Mall, which is a warehouse of two levels, floor to ceiling antiques and wannabe antiques (crocheted doilies...) She just about had a heart attack, I think, because she wanted to take home truckloads of the stuff to Nova Scotia and resell it there. If you've got something antique to sell in Nova Scotia, you'll probably make the same amount of money as you would opening another Tim Horton's on Main Street. But seriously, folks, antique shops in Nova Scotia are like the <insert famous chic, modern, contemporary designer furniture store name here> of London or New York, and they sell for a pretty penny. I am not so much into the antiquing myself, not unless I have my camera armed and ready to go. My mother loves them because I think she's from another era at heart, and my dad, the handyman, loves restoring old things.

Case in point: the cradle my son slept in for his first month has been used by three previous, possibly four, generations in my family. He would be the fourth (or fifth). My father spend an entire summer restoring the old cradle after poor storage or shipping damaged it. When my parents raided my grandparents' house before their big move, they took a few dirty old pieces that turned out to be real gems when my father stripped the paint from them. One of the pieces was a real old-fashioned music stand or sheet music holder or something, hand carved with the most curious designs... but you never would have known it for all the muck and gunk covering it. My Pop, my Dad's dad, once told me about cupboards his sister fashioned out of tea crates and those old square nails... though we do not have those cupboards now.

In any event, my family is antique nuts. The closest I usually get is the Antiques Road Show, which must have peed its pants when it went to Newfoundland that one time. My aunt has stories.... But I did visit an antique store with my folks in Cape Breton a summer ago while we were driving the Cabot Trail. The lighting was murky, but I love the natural effect it has on the images. You could put a pair of Nike sneakers in that light and they would look vintage. Another place that's good to shoot antiques, believe it or not, is a heritage type museum. We have a couple of those lying around here, and I've taken some of my more interesting pictures from that living museum. So, if you're afraid of taking your spend-happy self (or spouse) to an antique store or in a barn (yeah, hay fever...), check out one of your local museums or something (and read the signs to make sure you're allowed to take pictures first).

If you are looking for inspiration, or simply cannot be bothered to visit antique shops, then visit our webstore. Our  Antique and Around the Farm sets show off a few of the more interesting shots we've taken at antique stores and farms, and you can peruse them for your pleasure, or add a few images to your cart. Might be cheaper than actually visiting an antique shop, because you might end up going home with furniture you didn't really need. Ain't that so?

But what to do about that light? The graininess? That colour? Nothing. Really. Enhance it, but don't try and make it look like a modern photo. Isn't that the fun of antiques? You can get some really special images if you don't fool with the natural lighting of your shot. Just keep a steady hand, look for a cool angle or a jumble of weird things all mashed together on the same shelf, and shoot away.

P.S. Don't forget to shoot the doors. You'd be surprised.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Just started a bit of a photography project that could quite easily turn into an obsession. I folded my first paper crane yesterday from a 7cm square piece of paper. Evidently, the smaller the paper, the harder it is to fold. Wish somebody had told me that before I attempted origami. Me not smart...(then again, starting small meant I had to try extra hard to be precise, and it paid off, that level of meticulousness...) and to be honest, I thought that the whole folding paper thing was really going to be a challenge for me. I can't even put the duvet cover on without a struggle, or fold a hospital corner. What turned out to be the challenge were the instructions. I think I watched and read four or five different sets of instructions and videos about folding a paper crane before I stumbled on one that actually made sense to me. If I had any doubts about my learning style, well, yesterday's adventure in origami instructions confirmed that I am indeed a visual learner.

I'm not going to lie, though. I have a thing for paper crane photographs. And now that I can make them, I can take as many pictures as I want. The trick is getting the camera to focus on the little beak, or it all goes hazy.

There's a legend in Japan that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, your wish will come true. I'm sure you've heard the story of Sadako, the little girl who got a million kinds of cancer after the Hiroshima bombing. She folded a thousand paper cranes so that her wish (to live) would come true. Though she folded the cranes, her wish was not granted... nevertheless, in the Hiroshima Peace Park, you can see thousands of paper cranes strung together like gaudy curtains, folded and hung by schoolchildren. The next time I'm at the Peace Park, which should be this November, I'll take a few shots so you can see what I'm talking about. If you go yourself, I swear, zoom in on those masses of paper cranes. You could have the least sophisticated point and shoot on the planet and you would still walk away with a stellar pic. People would admire your artistic sensibilities.

If you also ever find yourself in the Hiroshima Peace Park, I recommend going in August on the anniversary of the bombing. It is not the depressing boo-hoo fest you might think it would be. In the morning, the same ceremony is held every year-- poems are read, prayers are recited, some of the survivors speak, doves are released, and people wish for peace. (I've read articles where some folks think the Japanese are condemning the Americans for the bombing, but that's not what the park or the anniversary ceremony are about at all). Mostly I wonder what happens to the doves. Do they come back? Forget about trying to shoot the doves, though, not unless you've camped out overnight in the park (which the Japanese would never allow) to get a front row seat.

It's the evening, though, when you'll want to whip out your camera. Thousands of lit paper lanterns are set on the river in the twilight hours and into the night. Each lantern is a wish for peace. The opportunities for amazing pictures are countless, provided you have a tripod (and/or a ridiculously steady hand) and know how to use your camera in the dark. I'll see if I can dig up some of my lantern images one of these days. They were taken on a point and shoot (and no, I didn't have a tripod..) and I can't remember how good or poor the quality is.. But check back August 6th and you may find that I've posted a few of those old pics.

For other photographic opportunities, don't forget to check out the art displays made and sent by children from all over the world. It's something different every year, and again, you zoom in on some of that artwork and you have instant genius photography.

Now, I know you can fold origami out of anything. Folks do it out of Starburst wrappers and newspapers and toilet paper and and and... but the  paper I've been using, the gorgeous paper, has all come from, if you're interested in getting in on your own origami paper project. In the meantime, I'm trying to come up with new and creative ways of photographing origami cranes. I'm thinking garden shots, newspaper origami, tsuru parades... what else? Suggestions welcome!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Ham

I do not have a macro lens. I once aspired to shoot petal textures and  have oh-so-artsy renderings of them all zoomy and close up, but I gave it up. Plenty of people out there can zoom in on a flower or a ball of yarn and achieve greatness, provided they have a swanky macro lens. No, I discovered that I'd rather shoot other things. Until I met this fellow, and wished a thousand times over I'd had a macro lens.

This dragonfly was quite possibly the most accommodating bug I have ever encountered. He perched right there on his little thorny twig and let me shoot him from all angles. He even tilted his head a few times, adjusted his wings, gave me a wink and a smile. Of course, in my exuberance (and fear that the closer I got, the more inclined he would be to fly away), I completely disregarded the optimal focal length for the lens I was using and went in for the kill... or rather, the close-up shot. Naturally, my focus was never ideal... either the head or the body would be slightly out of focus while the wings were crystal clear. That'll learn me.

The first dragonfly I ever shot was in my Nan and Pop's yard. It was quite possibly the size of my pre-pubescent hand. I, at the time, was sporting an $8 camera... was it an 18mm or 35mm camera? I can't recall. It was about the size of a Hershey's chocolate bar, only a little thicker. It took horrendous pictures. Or rather, I took horrendous pictures. (Can't blame the tool; blame he who wields it.) I am certain that dragonfly picture is in one of those albums with the gummy pages, wedged in next to the sticker albums I kept. Actually, what would be neat to have is that old Hershey bar camera so I can take some retro looking photographs. Isn't it funny how they're coming back in style? People clamoring after old cameras, or using Photoshop to add some 70s vignettes. But I digress. 

I thought I'd share some of the images anyhow. I am not certain if they will make it to the webstore; you certainly won't find them on the cover of National Geographic or anything. You'll have to let me know if you're interested in a copy, or at the very least, if it's not too embarrassing to try and sell them. Still, I rather enjoy how you can see the detail in his little legs clinging to the twig, and the beauty of his wings. And, doesn't it look like he's smiling?