Friday, April 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday vol. 15

--- 1 ---

I couldn't resist. The kids didn't have school on Easter Monday so we spent most of the morning at our favorite park. Not only does it have a large pond, ducks, squirrels and lots of playgrounds, it's also the lovely location that we've used for many of the kids portraits over the last few years. While we were there, I wanted to use the opportunity to recreate the photo you see in my blog header.

2012 04 11_9299_edited-1

Technically speaking this new image isn't up to par with the original. The bright, mid-day light was not ideal and I didn't have my "pretty" lens with me. But it's interesting to see how much the kids have changed in the almost two years that have passed since I snapped that original shot as well as how much they haven't changed. Notice that Elizabeth has both her hands and feet in almost identical positions. They even arranged themselves in the same order on the bench! Of course, all the kids' legs have grown considerably.

Can you guess what Gustin's attitude was during this (extremely) brief photo shoot? If the fact that he defiantly kicked his shoes off and is slouching doesn't give it away, here's the more incriminating photographic evidence:

2012 04 11_9300_edited-1

Sometimes photos are much better when you just eliminate the grumpy faces from the frame. :)

--- 2 ---

I love two-year-olds. It really is one of my favorite ages. There is almost nothing a two-year-old does that is not cute (except maybe throw a fit). The way they run is cute. The way they chew their food is cute. The way they try to mimic their older siblings is cute. And their emerging speech is absolutely adorable.

According to Clara the members of her family are Mommy, Daddy, "da boy", "Dih-duh-deff" (Elizabeth), "Duh-din" (Gustin) and "da baby".  Jonathan does not yet warrant a name, he is simply "da boy". In fact, all boys (except Gustin) are called boys and all girls are called Elizabeths (or I should write Dih-duh-deffs). She also only speaks about herself in the third person and always calls herself "da baby".

"Da baby do dat!"

"Dat's da baby's toy!"

"Da baby dit dessed!" (get dressed)

Such a fun age!

--- 3 ---

Style, Sex & Substance. I finished Hallie Lord's new book last week and it was wonderful. It is full of fresh ideas and really challenged me to examine my attitudes toward motherhood, my marriage, my prayer life and the culture. The group of women assembled for this project are so tremendously gifted and intelligent; it would be impossible to not have learned a thing or two from this inspiring book. Highly recommended.

--- 4 ---

Simply lovely. My sister-in-law and I threw a bridal shower for my sister a couple of weekends ago. My clever sister-in-law came up with a simple and lovely flower arrangement to decorate the tables.

2012 04 11_9485_edited-1

She placed a single hydrangea stem in a vase and then added colorful tulips, slipping them in through the hydrangea blossoms. She then added a few springs of a small accent flower and--viola!--we had super simple, pretty centerpieces.

2012 04 11_9510_edited-1

I wish theses pictures did them justice. They were lovely but the light at the restaurant was terrible!

--- 5 ---

An Easter miracle. This Lent has been a real struggle, though the struggle had nothing to do with prayer, what I gave up for Lent, or fasting. The struggle has been Clara at mass. She is by far the chattiest child we have ever had and for the past few months she seemed to really turn up the frequency and volume at mass. We worked so hard to get her to be quiet and often had to take her to the back for large portions of the mass. Then there were the comments and evil eyes we got from other parishioners. A woman stopped me after mass and told me it "wasn't fair" that my child was making it so difficult for others to concentrate and another women loudly shushed us from across the aisle during mass. I was so humiliated and thoroughly humbled (rather appropriate for Lent, don't ya think?).

Our Easter miracle came a bit early on Palm Sunday. That's the day that Clara finally learned how to whisper! She was fantastic at mass that day (still fidgety like a two-year-old but she did so quietly) as well as on Holy Thursday and she even behaved for the entire Easter Vigil until she quietly fell asleep during the consecration. A very difficult Lent transformed into one of the loveliest Easter Triduums we've ever experienced!

--- 6 ---

A new favorite. Elizabeth and I recently finished reading the loveliest book. I saw The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge recommended in the comments of a blog post I read somewhere along the way. It intrigued me because it's set in 19th century England (all of my favorite books seem to be set in 19th century England), has a touch of fairy tale magic and J.K. Rowling said it was her favorite book as a child. We absolutely loved it! Elizabeth would beg me to stop my chores so we could curl up together and dive into the world surrounding Moonacre Manor. And it made it even more special since Elizabeth and I were discovering it for the first time together. I predict The Little White Horse is a book that will be read many, many times in our house.

--- 7 ---

Clara's shoe obsession. I know all kids go through the stage of clomping around in other people's shoes, but for Clara this stage has turned into an obsession.

2012 04 12_9531

She's changes shoes at least half a dozen times a day not including her own shoes. That count only includes other people's shoes she confiscates.

2012 04 12_9530

It seems that every time I turn around, she has a different pair of shoes on her little feet. And it's been this way for months and months.

2012 04 12_9529

This week I tried to capture all her shoe choices in a 24 hour period.

2012 04 12_9527

These are only the ones I managed to capture on camera.

2012 04 12_9526

She's also a quick change artist and often a pair of shoes has come and gone before I can hunt down where I left my phone this time.

2012 04 12_9525

This obsession sure is cute now but I'm beginning to wonder what it will mean when she's a teenager!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I apologize to all my non-photographer readers. This is yet another photography post. I tried to write about something else--I spent days trying to formulate into words some thoughts on God, heaven, and creativity--but the resulting post just wasn't very good. So, it will remain a draft for awhile until I either do the work to make it better or scrap it all together. In the mean time, another photography post it is.

Jill and I were recently in a discussion over email about the merits of using actions or presets when editing. Actions (in Photoshop) or presets (in Lightroom) are a series of edits that can be applied to a photo with a single click of a button. Some actions allow the user a lot of freedom to make adjustments, others do not.

Jill asked to see a photo with a simple, clean edit and then edited again with actions/presets.  I have Photoshop Elements so these photos were edited with actions or with textures (when a photo is overlaid over another photo and then the two are blended together). I ran the actions or added the textures after I had done my initial clean edit (in other words, I didn't apply the action to the original, straight-out-of-the-camera photo).

Here's the original of Clara playing in our front yard (with a toothbrush??):

2012 01 19_8212

This following is my clean edit. I adjusted white balance, cropped, straightened, brightened, adjusted the contrast and sharpened. It sounds like a lot but all those adjustments can be completed in about 2 or 3 minutes or less.
2012 01 19_8212_edited-4

Here's an edit with an action (the free mini fusion action from MCP Actions). Funky tones. Not a typical edit for me.

2012 01 19_8212_edited-1

It seems as though creating a black and white photo should be easy, but I find it to be fairly challenging and I appreciate the help of an action. This black and white was edited using a free action by The Pioneer Woman. A bit contrasty for me in this photo, but okay.

2012 01 19_8212_edited-2

Next I applied a free texture by Jessica Drossin. It slightly changed the tones and contrast and added a bit of a vignette to the edges.

2012 01 19_8212_edited-3

Finally, here's another texture, this time from Sarah Gardner, applied to reduce contrast and to soften and lighten the entire photo.

2012 01 19_8212_edited-5

So, there you have it. One photo edited 5 different ways using a few of the free actions/textures I have collected over time. Feel free to shout out a favorite in the comments. I generally like clean edits, especially with photos of people, but I'll use other editing tricks at times.

And, if you are a photographer, what is your opinion about the use of actions/presets? Are they good or bad for photography or neutral?

P.S. If you want to see some truly amazing photography and dramatic editing, click on the links for Jessica Drossin or Sarah Gardner. They are amazing artists!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Photo challenge

My good bloggy friend, Jill, gave me a little nudge and so I'm trying something new...

Tearing around the neighborhood

I'm entering this picture of Gustin in the photography challenge for April. The theme is "happiness".

Photo Challenge Submission