Monday, May 28, 2012

What a difference a word makes...

Its funny, but I never thought I needed a qualifier when I said I was a photographer. For me, photography encompasses a wide range of interpretation. There are the landscape photographers, like myself. There are portrait photographers, sports photographers, etc etc... I never thought that someone thinking I was a photographer meant that I did all forms of photography. After all, there are a range of teachers... special education, physical education, arts, music, drama, math, english.... not to mention those lucky individuals in elementary education that somehow manage to incorporate a wide range of these into their curriculum. But you wouldn't necessarily expect that your P.E. teacher (the one who lectures you on the finer points of dodgeball) would also pick up the reins of your music class and teach you the best way to warm up for your solo...

 But I digress.... again... yes, I know, its a terminal condition with me.

My online "portfolio" shows landscape after landscape... broad vistas, close up shots of wildflowers and interspersed with a healthy sprinkling of farm animals.

Like these handsome beauties

As a gal who is still learning (and has masses more yet to learn!) I can often be found hauling out my camera and trying my hand at new things... a dance competition (hopelessly blurred... see the post on that mishap here) I've hauled my camera out on road trips, trying to capture some of the local "wildlife", but I always seem to click the shutter a split second too late.... catching little moments just after they happen. Oh well, I figured, I'm a nature and wildlife girl so what does it matter?

Turns out it matters a lot.

I was at my friend's house where one of her daughters was excitedly showing off the photos taken from her latest dance... photos of herself and her date that she had paid good money for.   Photos that were, in my untrained opinion, a total rip off. I then did something not entirely uncommon to me: I opened my mouth and inserted my foot so deep I was licking my kneecaps (and, if truth be told, noting that I needed a shave).

"Honestly Kitten" I heard myself say.  "I could do much better than these and I wouldn't even charge you. Let me know when your next dance is and I'll come out and take your pictures."

Wait... did I just offer to do a real photo session of sorts?

Even if it is for a girl I totally adore, what in the world was I thinking? I don't do portraits. I have no idea about proper lighting and composition. That's the great thing about flowers and fields, mountains and trees... you don't have to direct them. With nature you just keep snapping away until something comes out decent. Heck, horses are so naturally graceful that its pretty hard to not get a good shot of them and here I am offering to photograph teenagers? At least it was a darling girl I knew and loved and I told myself how hard can it be, after all, this kid is a bit of a ham in front of the camera anyway.

A few weeks went by and then here it came... the last dance of the school year. Would I please take pictures of not only my adopted teen, but of her friends and their dates as well? Now I had done it. I had to look like I knew what I was doing?

 Oh the things I am willing to do for this kid!

The big day came... I took time to change into a nice shirt and clean jeans (might as well look a bit professional). I was kicking myself for not having gotten around to sewing my new camera strap, but, since there was nothing I could do about it, I headed over with a cloud of anxiety forming around me.

7 couples.

Thankfully they all arrived in dribs and drabs and not all at once. I'd snagged Kitten's younger sister early for a couple preliminary shots in the yard and established 3 good backdrops so I took the first couple out around the yard, keeping up a patter of conversation all the while and trying to act like I knew what I was doing. 

Couples 1 and 2 were unknown to me, and, thankfully, since I was photographing each group separately, I was able to use a lot of the same jokes over.  I loosened a bit when I realized that the kids were more scared of the camera than I was and began to enjoy myself.  I was easier with my jokes and directions and found the courage to start getting the kids to smile more and to look like they were enjoying themselves instead of (at least in the guys' cases) looking like lambs being led to the slaughter.  

Couple 3 was my Kitten and her date, so that was fun, except I had to rein my girl in a time or two as she has a habit of breaking into goofy looks and gestures when she's nervous.  The next two couples were also easy, since I knew the girls (they both not only attended, but also helped out at my wedding). The last two couples were running pretty late and the light was failing fast, but we managed to get some shots before the bunch of them wandered off to a bbq before the dance.  I headed back into my friend's house tired, but very happy it was over. I would say I felt relieved, but that wouldn't happen until I had a chance to review my shots.

The next morning I downloaded my memory card and started going through the pictures. Sure enough, there were lousy shots... especially with the last two couples where we were fighting the light, but I was happy to see that each couple also had shots that looked pretty good. Good enough that I was able to edit an average of 6 pictures per couple.  Some shots were only good in black and white, and for a bunch of free photos done as a favor, they weren't bad, but I still found myself stressing and getting more and more nervous that these didn't look more pro.

When I dropped by my friend's house later that week to give them the photos they were surprised to find I had edited the images.  I thought I had mentioned that to them beforehand, but now it makes sense as to why they were confused that it took me 3 days to get through the files.  But as I explained that it takes time to go through 7 batches of photos and whiten teeth, clean up blemishes, erase random hairs floating in the breeze and, in one case, fix a great shot barely missed by doing a head swap with the image before it, I was greeted with stunned surprise.  My friend reached out and whacked me lightly, "Silly girl," she said.  "No one expected you to do any of that. You do too much."

But that's just who I am... if I am going to offer someone my photographic skills (such as they may be) you'd better be darn sure I am going to put them in their best light, so to speak.  Besides, its what you do when you care about the gal you are doing all of this for.  And anyway, I told them it was also done so I could get more experience in for when I do Kitten's senior pictures this coming fall and spring (another offer, but this one I am now looking forward to as Kitten is incredibly fun to work with).  Seeing their reactions (Kitten, her mom and my "Cowgirl" from the photoshoot all went through the files) was a nice reward as they loved the pictures and were beyond happy with how they turned out.  Guess that will teach me to waste time on worrying....

Nah, worry is a default mode with me.

So do I now consider myself a portrait photographer?  Not in the least.  In fact, this has convinced me that this is not a direction I want to go in.  Figuring out compositions, making adjustments to where you are standing, the look on your face (you'd think teens on a date would want to smile more), and all of the continual banter that goes on during the session is absolutely exhausting.  The bundle of nerves that goes on until you can actually confirm you've taken decent shots and not wasted an afternoon would drive me nuts if I was to do it on a regular basis. 

But then, I did get some really cute shots (by the way, it was a themed "matching hats" dance)...

Kitten and friends in a cute candid moment

Kitten and her date

One of the couples I met that the fedoras
 Love this shot....for not being a "Country Girl" she pulls it off well.
Another couple I met that night.... and I love the candid shots from their photoshoot

These two were cute, but then they were also pretty relaxed around each other which helped a lot

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Great Book....

...and hopefully a decent rendition on the big screen. I love the book "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I was first introduced to this book in a lit class over a decade ago and loved it. Loved it so much that it became the book I based my final paper on. I kept my copy and have probably read it about once a year since. I am not sure what it is that draws me to this particular cast of characters and their situation, given how messed up everyone is and how tragic things end, but I find myself captivated every time I pick i up. And then today I find out that Baz Luhrmann is releasing his version of the tale later this year.
Baz Luhrmann. Baz Freaking Awesome Luhrmann. Oh yeah, as soon as I saw that article I looked outwardly calm, but inside I was doing the dance of joy and squealing like a fangirl. I then did a quick search and found the trailer. Sweet! Well from little we get to see it looks amazing... I am so excited to see this one.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


At first it was far too bright to see; peeking at the sun from behind a hand held up to block the light had my eyes tearing up and aching.  I was tempted to look again a few minutes later and had to restrain myself as I had no protective gear to keep myself from burning sensitive retinas.  I found myself frustrated that I was going to miss an event that was taking place right before me.  I snuck another peek and was immediately hit with a deeper ache in the left eye I was using, trying to spare the right by squinting it shut.  Afterimages of blue filled my sight....

I pulled out my camera and aimed it in the sun's direction, hoping for the best, but all I got was a big white blur.

Well darn, I thought, getting ready to bag the whole idea.  I went back in the house and sat at the kitchen table, noting glumly that the evening was quickly growing darker and the air was filling with the sounds of birds roosting for the evening, chirping out their final calls to one another at what they assumed was the closing of their day. The blue tint to my sight slowly faded and provided some solace, but it was with a heavy heart that I sat, knowing I was missing out on a dazzling Heavenly show, though I knew no one was to blame but myself, as I had failed to plan accordingly.  

Then Jason said the neighbors were out back with a homemade reflector that they were willing to let us look through.  We put on our shoes and I grabbed my camera (just in case) and headed for the park behind the house, where the one of the neighbors was looking through the reflector while another was beginning to snap photos, complaining about a covering of clouds that had moved in at the last moment.

What the heck, I thought.  This time I zoomed my lens, glancing at the viewfinder every now and again to be sure I was pointed in the right direction, and started snapping shot after shot.  To my surprise, the eclipse was now being captured, however faintly, as the moon slid into place and the clouds providing an imperfect, but welcome filter.

I admit that I went overboard, snapping away madly as the moon slowly crossed the face of the sun.  It seemed to pass in a matter of moments, and I found my images beginning to blur as the sun came flaring out on the far side once again.  As the evening brightened around us the birds began singing again and a few even took to flight.  I turned off my camera and made my way back inside again, where I pulled out my laptop and, fingers crossed, I downloaded my memory card, hoping that something had turned out.

Images, blurred at first, then growing clearer and clearer filled my computer, and I found myself finally looking at images that, while still blocked by clouds, showed a lovely silhouette of the moon as it performed its heavenly dance with our parent star.... 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sleeping on the job....

I open my fortune cookie to find the following:

"No fortune right now...try again later.  Hey, even cookie's need their sleep."

.....huh?  Was someone at the cookie factory out of ideas?  Was his supervisor hitting the bottle, which allowed something so lame to escape?

I guess I can take solace that my lunch companion's cookie was even worse: 

"The problem with humanity is not enough highways and too many people."

Just what we need... fortune cookie's spouting bad philosophy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I can't believe I paid for this...

It seemed like a good deal at the time... but then, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is.  Still, it seemed innocent enough...

Saturday morning, late spring. 

The beginning of yard sale season.

Probably only imagined, but I could swear the scent of desperation was in the air as we bargain junkies, starved after a long winter of going cold turkey, climbed into our cars and began the slow crawl through neighborhoods.  Peering into yards as if we had the right to deny our neighbors any scrap of privacy.  We had become stalkers with pockets full of change and small bills, ready to pounce at a moments notice, scrabbling amongst ourselves for another person's castaway items.

At first glance this sale seemed pretty sparse, but my companion and I pulled over anyway and walked over to examine its contents more closely.  Like a modern-day Indiana Jones I was determined to separate the gold from the dross... to haul home that hidden treasure that somehow was overlooked amidst the detritus of a life.

The box sat to one side, quietly unassuming and no one was even glancing its way.  Without much hope I wandered over and was surprised to see a small box filled with lovely seashells and a bunch of sand dollars in perfect condition.  A glance at the side of the box found me looking at a sticker that said $1.  I snatched up the box and made my way to where the beleaguered mother was trying to keep an eye on her wayward daughter racing about the yard while also directing another family member who was still bringing out a few random items.  She confirmed that the shells were indeed just a dollar, and mentioned that she and her family had collected them on a trip to Mexico the year before.

I paid for my shells and a few other items, and put it in the trunk of the car, before we made our way to yet another stop.  Later that day the box finally made its way into the house, where I began counting out the beautiful sand dollars and was surprised to find nearly 30 tucked within!  I was already making plans to ship these to my sister, so she could try recreating a cute garland that I had found online and forwarded to her.

The shells sat off to one side of the living room for a few weeks before I finally hauled them off to work, determined to find a way to safely pack the bits and pieces for shipping, and to sort through the other shells that lay within.

Today on my lunch break I began sorting.

More and more lovely shells went through my hands, were appreciated, and then carefully repacked into plastic bags to await a future of being displayed in a large glass jar.  The flatter shell of the clam, glowing in tones of pearl and pink, gentle spirals in creams and browns, a conch or two and, surprisingly, a lot of glassy bits of obsidian.  All of these were a feast to the eyes...until one little shell caught my eye.  Turning it over I discovered the remains of a desiccated little clam.

Poor thing, I thought, and moved the shell to one side to be disposed of.   A few shells further and I picked up a tiny conch; no greater than a nickel.  Then I saw a flash of red inside the shell, something in direct contrast against the sage green... it was a dead crab that had huddled deep within its adopted shell home, only to die nowhere near the sea it had been plucked from. 

Further inspection found a sea urchin that appeared to have gone in the box while still alive as well...

I had purchased a box of mass murder.

I still have nearly a quarter of the box to go and from what little I see, it doesn't appear as if any of the remaining shells hold any lurking horrors, but I won't know for certain until tomorrow.  Still, I feel terrible for the poor sea life that suffered and died just so they could one day wind up in my hands.  I can only hope that these little creatures weren't collected intentionally; that their inclusion in the box was due to someone thinking these items were safe to collect as their occupants were no longer in residence.

But still I wonder....

...does this make me somehow partially responsible?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"I have a cold... don't kiss me", I said.

"I'm not worried about it", he said, leaning over for a kiss.

"I'm serious...don't come crying to me if you get sick", I retorted.

"Don't worry", he replied, then pressed his lips tightly to mine.

      *     *     *

A week goes by... and then I get the text message:

"Sweetie, I think I caught your cold. Feel achy and going between hot and cold.... it sucks to be me".

What do I say to that? Seriously.... I did warn the guy, so why do I feel guilty?

Oh yeah, because I love him.

     *     *     *

Being sick stinks..... especially when you're stuck sharing it with the one you love.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Mothers are more than just the women we are born to.

Mothers are also women that come into our lives; women who love and support us.  They inspire us to pursue our dreams and provide an outstretched hand to help us when we fall.

My Mother, Kathy

I have had the privilege of having three absolutely wonderful women in my life.  Women who have loved me.  Women who have stood by me and been there for the ups and the downs.  Women who have supported me through marriage, through divorce, through trials and tribulations.  Women who have shared my sorrows as well as my joys.

 Women who have loved me deeply, and who have been deeply loved in return.

My Mother, Arlene

So I wish to take a moment to say how much I appreciate them.  How grateful I am for the Lord bringing such wondrous and kind angels into my life.

Women who have molded me, who have shown me what it means to be compassionate.  Mothers who have given me a model after which to pattern my own life.

My Mother, Patsy

 Words cannot say enough just how much these women mean to me, but, until greater words are created, I love you will simply have to do.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You Live and You Learn

Saturday afternoon.  Provo High School Gymnasium.  Crowds filled the bleachers and the floor of the court was filled with teams warming up.

.... check

.... check

Everything was all set up and ready to go for the dance competition.  I snapped random shots of different performances, checking them on my tiny viewscreen and everything looked to be perfect.  Our group's number was called and the music cued up.  I began snapping away, trying to capture spins and twirls and, most of all, the sweet little dancer I was rooting for most.  The number came to a close and the troupe walked to the wings while another group took to the floor.

We stayed for a few performances more and then headed for home, my camera and tripod safely packed away and all waiting to see what images I had captured.

Imagine my horror this morning when I downloaded the images from my camera only to find many of the shots were hopelessly blurry.  With a sinking heart I reached for my camera, already knowing what I would find.

I had left the setting on Automatic, instead of changing it to Sports.  The camera wasn't operating at a high enough speed to capture constant motion, so arms and legs became meaningless streaks and blurs, instead of the graceful lines and movements that had taken place before me.

Since I had never used my camera with the tripod before, I spent too much time making sure it was set up properly and securely, and then trying to set up my remote control (never before used, and not figured out in time for the competition) that I completely overlooked my camera setting.  I was certain I had already changed it and foolishly did not double check before the competition began.

Thankfully the group will probably perform the same number again at next weekend's dedication to the new Springville Town Hall building, so that is where you will find me, valiantly try try trying again.

The most embarrassing part will be explaining this to my friend and her daughter.  Just a few weeks before I had offered to take photos of another daughter and her friends the next time they went to a formal dance, and have also been asked this fall to take this other daughter's senior photos and then I massively screw this up.  Not only is it a blow to the ego, but I feel so stupid about making such an obviously rookie mistake. 

I guess I should seriously spend more time learning the ins and outs of photography... and always double and triple check my settings as I go. 
Luckily I was able to salvage some of the shots...

We're only human, right?  Has anyone else made this same, stupid mistake when shooting an event?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Shawna's Summer Movie Review - The Avengers

Okay, first of all, if you liked any of the following movies: Iron Man 1 or 2, Thor or Captain America.... go see this film. If you are a Joss Whedon fan.... go see this film. If you like action and superheroes.... well, you get the drift.

This movie is amazing. For a gal who has never read any of the comics it was still surprisingly easy to follow along and understand what was happening. And while the plot is a bit sparse (Loki, still ticked off at Thor and how he's no longer King of Asgard decides to take over Earth to rule here) the humor and verbal sparring found in Joss Whedon's works certainly makes up for it, as well as a lot of action to keep you entertained for the movie's long length (2 hours and 22 minutes). A funny moment between Thor and Hulk had me in stitches, but don't worry, you'll know it when you see it.

We jump right into the heart of things at the start of the film with the arrival of Loki and the introduction of each Avenger in turn. Look for some nice cameos by our heroes' ancillary characters, Pepper Potts from Iron Man, Stellan Skarsgard's Selvig from Thor plays an important part, and Agent Phil Coulson is finally given a large role (hooray!) rather than the mostly cameos we've seen up until now.

If nothing else gals, the movie is full of eye candy... and every one of them is pretty much packing more abs and pecs than seems physically possible. And guys, there is plenty of Scarlet Johansson in tight leather to keep your eyes on the screen. I honestly did not expect to like her as Black Widow, since I didn't care for her in Iron Man 2, but she is a surprisingly likable character here.  Mark Ruffalo's take on mild-mannered Bruce Banner is understated, but really good (listen for an uncredited cameo of Lou Ferrigno as the voice of the hulk).  The only superhero that is fairly new to us is Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, who had a brief cameo in Thor, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and wielding his amazing trademark bow and arrows... fleshed out now as a real character, you can see how he does fit in with our more "super" heroes.

I don't want to give things away, but the movie is about how these individual characters go from outright animosity towards one another to pull together as a cohesive and working team. Stay through the end credits... at the start there is an segment that introduces us to the next Avenger bad guy (who I didn't recognize but Richard says is Thanos, who in the comic book world is a seriously nasty piece of work). I was personally hoping that we'd get Red Skull (from Captain America) as I would love to see more Hugo Weaving, and he obviously wasn't killed at the end of that film (the tesseract just translated him somewhere else) but I guess he just isn't tough enough for the writers to consider.

Stick around through the rest of the credits though,  as there is a moment where we get to see the unknown side of the superhero world... what do weary superheroes do after saving the day? Well, now you'll know.

The best part of the film is, of course, our bad guy, Loki, played wonderfully by Tom Hiddleston. He steals every scene of the film that he is in, and while I admit I have a bit of a crush on the guy (sorry Richard, guess I have a thing for demigod supervillans!) he really does the character justice... not many guys can pull off a character with horns that big attached to their costume! You believe that he really could take on all of our heroes all on his own. Too many films lose it with a wimpy bad guy, so its nice to see one that can stand on his own two feet.

Can we say hello handsome? 

The only recommendation I have is see it in standard 2D... we went to a late showing last night in 3D and we both left with a headache. There is just too much going on in the end action sequence and the 3D gets a bit muddled. I promised Richard we will go see it again and this time in just the standard format.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!

Books I have invited into my heart

Hey everyone, just want to let you know that I am a guest blogger today over at Four Perspectives, talking about some of my favorite childhood books. Earlier this week each of the regular bloggers for the site have posted their favorite books as well, and you can get to them by simply clicking on their names below. I highly recommend you click on them; there are some amazing books being discussed... Mel Gerb Teachinfourth Lori

Wit and Witticism

Courtesy of Middle-aged Mormon Man (MMM... now with bacon!) You can find more fun comments, etc on his blog here

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

From the iPod....

Actually, at the moment I am seriously missing my iPod... I took it in the house (I'm pretty sure of it anyway) on Friday and haven't seen it since. Guess I am just going to have to look harder when I get home tonight! "Eyes Wide Open" Gotye. I am really coming to love this guy's music.... his voice reminds me a lot of Sting "No Poetry" by Gary Jules. I have loved Gary Jules ever since I borrowed his "Trading Snake Oil for Wolf Tickets" album from mom about 7 years ago. At the time the only song I knew was his remake of "Mad World" from Tears for Fears (which was on the CD)... turns out "Mad World" is the worst track on this great cd. "Turning Tables" performed by Gweneth Paltrow. This is an Adele song, but I love this version.