From the bottom up.

Here are two tips I’ve come across frequently from people who know photography:

  1. Practice. A lot.
  2. Change your perspective when composing your shot.

With tip number one in mind, I lug my camera bag wherever I go. If it’s with me, I’m more inclined to use it. It’s become such a habit that I’m positively certain the one time I forget it will be the time I come across a rainbow, a flying pig, Viggo Mortensen, or some other ultra-photograph-able scene that will end up captured solely by my eyeballs.

My purse broke the other day, so I’ve re-purposed one of my old totes to carry my purse-y type items (I’m a mom, so these consist mostly of things like bandages, tissues, and wet wipes. Also Chapstick for when I want to get fancy). This tote is a size appropriate not only for a miniature dog of the variety carried around by Paris Hilton, but for perhaps one or two additional doggie-friends. Any more bags and I will begin to get strange looks from people on the street. Or perhaps people on the street are already looking at me strangely. It’s hard to tell because I can barely see past my bags.

As for photography tip number two, the easiest way to change perspective when shooting, so I’ve heard, is to move your body, starting with your feet. Move up or move down. How would the scene look from above, or below, or anyplace else other than how most of the world sees things, i.e., eye level? Climb a tree. Lie down in the grass. Composing this way is more likely to result in an interesting shot. You may look strange to others, but if they’re already looking at you strangely because of all the bags you’re carrying, who cares?

So, today I strapped my camera over my shoulder and rode my bike to the park with my children. I laid on my back in the wood chips beneath the play structure. It was, I’m surprised to say, strangely comfortable. From here, my view was drastically different than it had been on the sidelines. I had a nagging fear that one of my kids would fall on top of me and I’d end up with a broken camera and a mouth full of wood chips, in addition to a scraped-up child (not to worry, I carry bandages for that).

Happily, no blood was spilled, I did not eat wood, and my camera is still functioning. Not all my shots were very interesting, but I took a liking to this one.

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To summarize, here are two easy ways to improve your photography:

  1. Become a bag lady.
  2. Lie on the ground more often.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by ☺

At the speed of light.

May 13 (1 of 1)

The speed of light? Well, hardly. My subject is a child, riding a bike. Uphill.

I wanted to see if I could capture the feeling of motion in a photograph, so I tried out a panning technique.

Panning gives the impression of movement in a photo by blurring the background while keeping the subject relatively sharp. For this shot, I slowed my shutter speed down to 1/6 second and focused on my biking muse, following her movement horizontally with the camera while I pushed the shutter release.

When I try this again, I’ll probably try a faster shutter speed to help sharpen her form, and I’ll try to place her a little more to the left of the frame (so it doesn’t look like she’s about to race right into the hard edge of the photo).

In any case, I’m happy with my first attempt at panning, and she’s happy that she looks a bit like the Flash.

Win-win.

 

Raring to go.

April 29 (1 of 1)

When you’re ready to venture out – near or far – on your own:

  • May you proceed with caution (this is your mother talking, after all).
  • May you find the courage to wander roads rocky and unknown.
  • May you relish the journey as well as the destination.
  • May you realize the value of experiences over things.
  • May you travel using all of your senses, an open mind, and your whole heart.
  • May you remember to call your parents once in a while.
  • May you always know your way home again.

 

For more interpretations of the WordPress weekly photo theme of Wanderlust, click here.

Hand in glove.

April 23 (2 of 2)

We know every day should be Earth Day, but we also know we’re guilty of taking her for granted, so this weekend we tried to get outside as a family to participate in Earth-y activities.

We grabbed gloves and shovels for community tree planting, which resulted in new living quarters for a slew of skinny sugar maples. We also donned the gloves as we formed a mighty family litter brigade, cleaning up a section of our neighbourhood strewn with junk food wrappers, bags of dog poop and at least one pair of frilly undergarments.

April 23 (1 of 2)

There are still so many trees to be planted and so much litter to remove. There are still so many ways in which we need to pay better attention to the connection between us and our planet, and the enormity of our environmental impact. But we wanted to show the kids (and remind ourselves) that even small acts, especially carried out as a community, can make a visible difference.

Hey, once we introduce them to such activities, the kids may not want to stop. Who knows? They could end up like bestselling author and humorist David Sedaris, who picks up so much litter that he had a garbage truck named after him.

Lofty goals aside, our true aim is to better cultivate an appreciation for nature in our children.

And we’ll try not to wait until Earth Day to do it.

Go fly a kite.

April 17 (1 of 1).jpg

Ingredients required:

  1. A kite (caution: one originating from the dollar store is likely to require a double dose of ingredient #3).
  2. Wind (preferably a steady, warm-ish one).
  3. Patience (you may have to detangle the lines a few hundred times).

Blend. Repeat. Enjoy. 😊

You never know what to egg-spect.

With all the excitement about eggs this weekend – both the hard-boiled and chocolate variety – I thought about a connection to this week’s WordPress photo challenge of Surprise.

April 16 (1 of 1)

While colouring our Easter eggs today (a family experiment involving melted crayon shavings, stained placemats, and parchment paper accidentally set aflame…and which resulted in eggs that looked a bit like someone either threw up or bled on them), conversation drifted to the question of why eggs are symbols of Easter and of spring.

We talked a bit about the purpose of an egg, and the ideas of birth and renewal. All the egg/life/birth talk was enough to trigger memories of my own experiences – both physical and emotional – acting as the ‘egg’: carrying my kids during my pregnancies (which were, for me, mostly easy) and the ‘hatching’ events, so to speak (which were, for me, mostly not easy).

When a woman is ‘expecting,’ not much is certain. Sure, we’re expecting the arrival of a human, as opposed to a toad or a tomato, and science has given us the option of learning the baby’s sex, and sometimes the knowledge of the presence of certain medical issues. But beyond that, who this tiny person will become is a combination of factors including circumstances, choices, and the good old DNA lottery. We have only limited control of where this story is headed. We don’t really know what we’re in for, do we?

As they stood there at the kitchen table sharpening crayons and dipping eggs into cups of dye, I looked at these two similar but unique human beings that had exited my body not that long ago. And I experienced a flash of wonder that this is where we’ve ended up. It was complicated – a feeling of intense gratitude that we were all standing in the same room, safe and healthy and loved. A conflicted sense of both longing and relief for the days and years behind us, and of curiousity and hope for the days and years ahead of us. But it was also a feeling of acute irritation because they kept spilling crayon shavings all over the floor.

Then that moment was gone, and we were on to the next. And the next, and the next. Later moments included an attack of the giggles while I tried to make proper photos of our basket of splotchy Easter eggs.

Welcome, spring. We’ll try to be ready for what comes next, but in the meantime, we’ll try to pay better attention to what is now.

Might as well jump.

March 21 (1 of 1)

Things that are likely to happen when two little monkeys are jumping on the bed:

  • the cats will slink away in a huff, perturbed that they’ll need to find another location for their 6-hour power nap.
  • there will be disagreements about which jump to perform next.
  • there will be disagreements about whether to jump on three or after three.
  • there will be karate chops and cannonballs and all manner of flailing limbs.
  • midair poses and facial expressions will strike everyone as enormously funny, especially when reviewed later on the camera’s screen.
  • the grown-up in the room will be enjoying this display, but also cringing while she visualizes the ruin of the mattress springs.
  • the grown-up in the room will decide that it doesn’t matter because the springs are nearly toast anyway.

And, surely:

  • at least one little monkey will fall off and bump its head.

P.S.
1. Don’t worry, everyone’s okay. Well, except for the mattress springs.
2. Inspired by the WordPress weekly photo challenge: Atop.

Twinkle, twinkle.

To my kiddos:

There aren’t enough stars for all the wishes I’d make for you.

But if I were to create a post for the WordPress weekly photo challenge of Wish, this is where I might start.

March 10 (1 of 1).jpg

I wish you won’t ever feel the need to spend too much time inspecting yourself in the mirror.

But when you do examine your reflection:

  • I wish you’ll remember that you were born with DNA instructions that dictate what you can see: the shade of your skin, the shape of your nose, the length of your eyelashes. These features were assigned without any input or effort from you. They are part of you. They may be the first things people notice about you. They may be admired or they may be criticized. But these, alone, don’t define you, and they don’t define beauty, no matter what you hear in the schoolyard or read on the internet. These are just the tip of your iceberg.
  • I wish you’ll look deeper into yourself to see these, as well: kindness, grace, and humour. Courage and perseverance. Resilience and curiosity. The capacity to love and to be loved. The willingness to help and to stand up for others. These, I believe, make you beautiful. Maybe you were born with some of these qualities. Maybe you were taught. Some of them are strong, while some need growth. In any case, your attitude and actions have influence in these matters. These are your superpowers. Use them for good.
  • I wish, in the healthiest way possible, that you’ll also acknowledge the darker parts of yourself, like anger, greed, and fear. Apathy and doubt. They exist not only in you but in every single one of us. I wish you strength and support to cope with these, to accept them when appropriate and to rectify them when necessary. Do so to keep them in check, as they make very unpleasant superpowers.
  • I wish you’ll read and enjoy this quote, because it’s so much better than anything I could have written:

“Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief. Everyone has a shadow… But when you are able to say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good. Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.”

~ Parker Palmer (click here for more of this wonderful piece)

  • I wish that you’ll always look at yourself with equal amounts of honesty, courage, appreciation, and tenderness.
  • I wish, then, that when you turn away from the mirror and face the world around you, you’ll appreciate the duality existing in everyone, in everything. Light/dark. Joy/pain. Strength/vulnerability. Nourish your empathy, because everyone has a story. In a way, we’re all balancing acts. Grief and regret are inevitable, but it’s still possible to cultivate joy and wonder.

For starters, just look up at the stars.

With all my love,

Mom