Thursday, September 20, 2012

Function over form

You might not know this, but I don’t like useless things that are pretty.  My throw pillows are used (great to prop up the boppy!), my books are read, my candles are burned, my bud vases and ball jars hold flowers from my garden in the summer.  You will never see me do a post on styling a bookshelf because I don’t give a flying fart about styling bookcases.  I once put all my books in rainbow order and then realized that was dumb because they should be by author.  That is practical.
I think styled spaces look great in magazines, but I don’t live in a magazine, so I will not bother with it.  I do have a small collection of wooden cat statues because they make me smile, but for the most part I don’t have many things that only have the purpose of sitting somewhere looking nice.  Of course an exception is wall art and picture frames, it’s not like they are making me breakfast or telling me the time, but they make a home nicer to live in, which is something.  Anyramblingblogger, when I realized that I was logging lots of hours sitting in this here glider in the nursery...
I decided I was tired of looking at a blank wall.  I did want a little flat screen there, but I know it wouldn't get much use after his night feeding is dropped.
I bought a cute bicycle print from, and realized a clock to log the minutes would be a welcome addition.  Specifically, I wanted to know how many minutes of precious sleep I was losing at night because I like to torture myself. I found a cute yellow clock at Target, and thought it would look sharp with my art and wall color. Then I hung it up and was pleased. 
So cute!  (Placement looks a little weird here, usually the buggy is against that wall and the closet door is open, so that is why I picked those spots.)  
I was happy until night time, then I was not pleased because this was what I saw:
Well, duh. How the hell am I supposed to see this thing at night?  I like to nurse in an almost totally dark room so Ash goes right back to sleep without a fuss, which he does.  A normal person would’ve invested in a digital clock for the nightstand, but I’m not normal. I decided to try something to make my clock work. I got out my teeny screwdrivers...
pulled out 5 wee screws...
and separated the clock from the glass enclosure.
Then I painted the hands of the clock with this glow in the dark paint I got at Hobby Lobby for $2.20 with a coupon.
I started off using a craft brush, but figured out by the 5th coat that a finger works best.  
I was glad that the paint dries pretty clear.  I charged this bad boy up with some light...
and was completely disappointed.  It is not visible in the dark, and barely glows even after laying under a lamp all night.  
This is the best pic I could get in the dark room.  This makes it look glowy, but that is more a trick of the camera.  Cry.  Guess I'm just not going to worry about what time it is at night.  Hey, at least this pretty clock is functional during the daytime.    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Photo shoot deconstructed

As I was getting ready to take Ashford's 3 month photos, I thought it would be fun to do a post about my tips for taking great amateur photos of your kids.  Or at least 'better than average' photos.  I am not a professional photographer, so I think that means my quality of pictures is attainable by anyone with a camera like mine.  I have the Canon Rebel xsi DSLR, and it has been a dream to work with!  Here are the rules I follow:
Use natural light
I have a very small handful of photos that were taken at night or indoors with a flash.  They just don't look as good, even with a good external flash like mine.  If you are indoors, pull your subject to a window and go from there.  Ash turned 3 months on the 5th, but I waited until the 8th to do his pictures because I needed to do them during the day when I wasn't at work.  Work, who has time for it??  Seriously!
Add studio lighting when needed
This is the setup I use for Ashford's monthly pics:
The buggy is positioned with the window light on the right, and an umbrella light on the left to avoid shadows on the other side of his face.  The overall effect is not like a flash, but a well-lit room.  
With that said, there are plenty of photos that look awesome with shadow on one side of baby's face.  I love this contemplative pose from his 1st month shoot, without the umbrella light on the other side.  
Find a good backdrop
Nobody wants to see your dirty laundry or a bunch of random stuff/people in the background, so find a pretty background and make sure you can't see any clutter in your frame.  I have been known to use a blanket in the park and zoom in tight....
or a white sheet thrown over pillows in the living room. 
Manually select your focus point
As good as auto focus can be, it doesn't always know what is most important to you in your shot.  Whenever you are taking photos of a tiny human, the eyes are the important part.  The selection button is here on my camera:
I always make sure to select the point closest to his eyes when I set up the picture.  This changes depending on whether I'm doing a tight face-only shot, or a full body one.   
Once you have it set, if you aren't changing positions, you can leave it the same.  It makes a big difference in the clarity of your picture when the eyes are sharp.  
Adjust white balance
You might think auto white balance is coolio, and usually it is, but there are some times that it doesn't cut it for me.  Take these two shots for example...the first one was taken using auto white balance.
I thought it was looking a little too 'blue,' so I changed the white balance to 'daylight' so the camera would warm up the cool lighting.  I thought the second photo looked more realistic to his skin tone.  Of course, temperature can also be changed with editing later.   
I also find when I'm taking photos outside under a tree, the 'shade' option is a must to warm up the photo.  It looks very cold and blueish without that change.  It's as simple as selecting the type of lighting you are in from the easy-to-understand icons.  
Get in close
The closer you are to the subject, the easier it is to focus and eliminate distractions in the background.  I love this photo because his eyes are the star.  Speaking of, I will miss those baby blues when they change!  (Shaun and I both have brown eyes, so I'm not holding out hope for a blue-eyed child)      
Use continuous shooting
If you have continuous shooting on your camera, it can be the difference between a blurry shot and a clear one.  Babies move quickly, so continuous shooting allows me to capture a great shot in the middle of all the flailing legs and blurred arms.  It is also great for catching your baby looking at you for a split second before looking away again.  I took this photo of my dad and Ash last weekend, and was upset that he had looked down at the last minute...
...but continuous shooting saved the day because he looked up a second later and the camera caught it.
That function has saved me more times than I can count.  Of course the downside is after a 15 minute shoot you have 150 bad blurry photos to go through and delete, but that is a price I'm willing to pay....most of the time!  
Choose your photo time wisely
Only you know when your baby is happiest and most photogenic.  For me, the best time is when he wakes up and has eaten.  He is usually smiley and happy before his morning nap, so I hit him up at that time.  I made the mistake of trying to take pics one evening because he was wearing a cute outfit, and this is what happened:
Use your manual settings
I have learned a lot about shutter speed and aperture since I got my camera, and I now exclusively use the 'creative' settings on my camera instead of auto.  Using shutter priority and aperture priority settings allow me to get the most amount of light into my lens without sacrificing sharpness.  Av (aperture priority) is my favorite for this shoot because it makes Ashford sharp, and the background fuzzy.  It's worth learning about!

If they won't look at you
I've found that calling his name and making clicking noises usually doesn't work with my babe, what works is holding a toy with flashing lights directly above the camera, then starting to shoot while you pull the toy away.  I use the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, works great!  Of course, you can also take a cute shot with them not looking...
Be sure to check out Darby's post on photography here, and Katie's posts here.  I also love this book
Of course all of the tips I mentioned here can be used for taking pictures of anyone, not just babies.  Well, except the 'toy with flashing lights' bit, unless your family and friends are into that sort of thing.  Happy shooting!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thank you

I can't express how much I loved reading all your positive comments about my blog identity crisis.  Thank you so much!  You all have a way of making a girl (who just took her baby to official daycare for the first week) cry at work.  And if you are my boss or coworker, I was checking my gmail on my lunch.  Just so we're clear.  Speaking of thanks, I recently received a sweet baby gift from a reader who is also a talented knitter with a successful Etsy shop, Yarnaholics.  I was so excited to get this package!
Heather, her mom and her sister knit adorable baby hats and other items.  When she asked me if she could send me one for baby the day after he arrived, I was happy to accept a cute bluebird hat for Ashford.  Love it!
And here he is wearing his hat in the poor lighting of my bedroom.  What a nice double chin.  Does he look like Chris Farley to you??
Mommy's big guy is right.  I swear, he looks small in person - the camera adds 10 pounds to this kid!
I wanted to let you all know that I have the teething tablets and YES they work, I just need to make sure I have them with me.  I also use gas relief drops when he eats, it can be a night and day difference if I don't use it.  We're doing good.  I love you guys and I'm hoping to post more often now that I have some peace of mind about not always sticking to house stuff.  Thank you from this tired but happy mom :)
(Checking out my Tempurpedic pillow, I think he approves)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Admitting defeat

Today we went to Home Depot to finally buy the paint for the bathroom, get some light bulbs, a floor vent for the kitchen, grass seed and dirt.  It wasn't a large shopping list, and everything was fine until Ashford started to have an epic meltdown in the paint section.  Our simple shopping trip turned into a how-fast-can-we-do-this race to get him back home.  He has been showing signs of teething for a few weeks now (he's 3 months on Wednesday), drooling, chewing on our fingers/his hand/blankets, eating differently, the whole nine yards.  A soft bib around our finger in his mouth seems to be the best way to keep him quiet calm him.  So that is what I did.    
When we went to the outside area so Shaun could fetch the dirt, I stood next to the cart with my finger in my baby's mouth and looked into the store.  I was kind of shocked to realize I was not happy to be there.  I mean, a trip to Home Depot used to be like going to an ice cream shop for me, full of possibilities and exciting.  Yep, I get excited for ice cream.  But today, my wet finger and I were sad.  Sad and defeated because I didn't want to be there, I didn't want to use the materials we were buying, and I would probably never do any significant house projects again (except when Meryl and Chris come, of course!).  I said out loud to myself 'I don't want to work on the house anymore.'  This was the look I got:
(Dramatization - these pics were taken in the car when we hightailed it home)
I don't know why I'm surprised.  I knew after we had a baby that my drive to renovate and decorate would die down, or simply die.  I knew my blog would go downhill, as far as "DIY or Die Trying" was concerned.  I know there is a very strict rule that you are not to 'turn into a mommy blog' but I'm not really seeing any way around this.  If I just blogged about our house, I would not be know, like the last two weeks!  I'm not really interested in discontinuing the blog as I've quite enjoyed writing it and sharing my life.  People's lives change, and mine certainly has.  
(Yep, still crying)    
To summarize, the realization that I might never be a 'daily read' for some people again inspired my little pity party in the Home Depot garden center.  I'm not sure how often I will post, or what it will be about.  I like to think that since my blog is purely for fun and not monetized, I get some leeway to post about whatever seems interesting.  It makes me happy that when you come here, there won't be talking ads (ps - I hate those.  I may close a blog if they start up) or any ads, for that matter.  I have done a couple sponsored posts, but I get lots of offers and refuse almost all of them.  I just want my site to be about me, my family, my house, my life, whatever is going on.  Except recipes, please don't ever expect those!  
Thanks for reading, and if there is a question you would like me to answer or topic you'd like me to write about, please let me know.  Lord knows I need the suggestions.