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A lesson learned and a passion born

standard October 14, 2013 2 responses

The first session was on DSLR basics, something I desperately wanted to master. The SONY rep showed off her treasures as she lectured on shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

“But, you know, it’s perfectly ok to shoot in the auto or pro-auto modes. Lots of people do.”

I looked at the dial on my camera and groaned internally. What was it so hard to grasp what seemed to be some rather basic rules? Why was I utterly unable to internalize what I’d been taught so many times? I had zero desire to stay in auto mode. Might as well stick to phone photography if I did.

The next session, run by Me Ra Koh, who I absolutely adore, a last minute add-on in honor of the weather trapping us indoors, was all about shooting inside with the help of natural light.

Me Ra Koh

“No automatic, people! You can do this!” the second instructor urged as she explained that shutter speed, aperture, and ISO were like a tripod. Figure out two of the settings and you’re free to play around with the third. No need to adjust each one every time.

“Always start with the ISO. It’s the easiest. Low light; low ISO. Lots of light; high ISO.”

AHA! A hard and fast rule. One that I could use! Momentous moment! One I clutched at as a lifeline out of the confusion in my head.

“Photographers aren’t magicians, we’re just light experts.”

Suddenly it all started to really click. Three tools for controlling the light. Understand how and you can take all the photos you want.

That night, camera clutched tight in my hand, glimmer of success in my eye, I headed to a night photography session.

Gotta love having to use your phone as a flashlight to look at your camera settings.

“OK people, it’s really dark, so start by cranking your ISO as high as possible.”

I just blinked at the teacher.

“You mean low, right?”

“No, no. That’s just how Me Ra shoots, the rest of us do the opposite.”

Part of me almost gave up right then and there. A million pieces of conflicting advice received over the years was the reason I was still utterly confused and painfully stuck in Auto mode. Another part of me rejoiced. I took a deep breath and accepted her comment as the gift it had unintentionally been.


Turns out there is no “right” way to take pictures. There are just a bunch of suggested guidelines. When people say “you have to play with it.” (Which they do, inevitably after you ask your third, but why? But how? Question.) they don’t mean “just go away, I’m too busy to teach you,” or “oh, just give up now, if you don’t get it yet, it’s because you’re hopeless and I’m done wasting my time.”No, they’re really saying “these are suggestions, but really, go play, because what works for me might not be what works for you.”

It was, without a doubt, the most freeing thing I could have learned.

Too cheesy? Sorry.

If there is no “right” way to shoot, then that means there is no “wrong” way either. I can’t get it wrong.

I popped out of bed at 6:30am the next morning (3:30 ‘my’ time.) and grabbed my camera for some early sunrise photography. I stood there, smile on my face, mist turning my hair into an insane curly mop, not a hint of sun peeking through the cloud cover, and had a blast.

6:30 in the fog

I held my tripod image in my head, messed with the ISO, with the aperture, with the shutter speed, until I found a look and feel that I liked. And then I just played around with composition to my heart’s utter content.

Photographers in the sand

In the end it’s not unlike writing. In one you have a camera, a means of capturing light, and the guidelines for how to do so, but you’re the artist with the vision. In the other you have various pens and paper options, a means of capturing words, and a long series of guidelines for how to do so (aka grammatical rules). In both cases it’s up to you, the writer, the photographer, the artist, to find the combination that allows your voice to shine. Once you find the right “settings” your voice can sing.

I learned all of this while attending Click Blogger Retreat in the Outer Banks of North Carolina this past week.  I took a million photos (well, ok, a thousand), had an amazing time, and came home heart over heels in love with my camera and photography. Endless thanks to the amazing sponsors who made it all possible: Southwest Airlines, HP, Snapfish, Sony, Avery, National Geographic Kids, KIND, The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, Carolina Designs Reality, SAGA Construction & Development, and epiphanie bags and to the incredible staff at Today’s Mama who pulled off the magic.

The Lion King: A first musical experience

standard November 8, 2012 3 responses

When I was 7, or maybe 8, my parents took me to see The King and I on Broadway. I was little, I had no clue what was happening on stage. Rumor has it I should be grateful that I got to see Yul Brynner live before he passed away, but all I remember is that we had tickets in the very last row and that my parents allowed me to sit on the backrest of the seat and to lean against the wall.

It was cool.

And the people on stage were very little. Like tiny ants dancing around. You know, since we were in the last row.

Fine, as memories of a first musical, it’s not much. And yet, that first visit fueled a love of musicals that has yet to die.

Lucky for me I married a man who also loves musicals. He’s the one who took me to see Miss Saigon in Boston and Wicked in San Francisco.

Last night we were beyond excited to finally get to take our kids to see their own first musical.   

I think it’s safe to say it won’t be the last.

First, lucky ducks that they are, they got to meet two of the cast members.

Grown-up “Nala” and “Simba.”
C, star-struck, Little L, wondering when she gets a piece of chocolate.

After a quick bite, we headed back into the theater to take our seats.

Out late on the town!

I wish they’d let me snap a few pictures of the girls in the theater. Their faces as they took in the set decor (“Mommy, I think I know why the tickets are expensive. It must cost a lot to paint a new curtain for every new show! I don’t think they can use this one for Mary Poppins!) and their wide eyes as the lights started to dim and the animals started to dance down the aisles.


The whole thing was amazing.

The costumes were glorious and, as C was quick to point out, were cool because you could see the people inside them. (She has issues with people with masks.) They’re kind of a hybrid between costumes and puppets. I love that you could both see the facial expressions and still get some of the whimsy and fantasy of the masks.

The girls were stoked to hear some of their favorite songs from the movie, though I was hoping more of the original soundtrack would be present in the musical. They sat, mesmerized, as the story unfolded with just enough familiarity to make it feel like something they knew, but with enough novelty to make it feel like a brand new experience.

Little L almost lost it when Mufasa, the father, is killed, but the joy of seeing Timon and Pumba brought to life quickly distracted her. C didn’t stop beaming from beginning to end.

We show ended long after the girls’ bedtime. It didn’t take long for Little L to pass out in the car. C, however, chattered all the way home, about costumes, favorite bits, things she’d noticed, and everything else that kept crossing her mind. As we got closer to home she got quiet, finally giving in to the exhaustion, but when we pulled in to the driveway she asked if we could go see Mary Poppins for her birthday.

I think she’s been bitten by the musical bug.

Even though she sat in the very last row.

(Please note, we’re very grateful to have been comped tickets to see this amazing musical. The Lion King is now playing in San Francisco and I encourage you to take your kids to go see it. You won’t regret it!)

Finding My Mom Style

standard August 29, 2011 2 responses

I’ve mentioned it before, fashion and I are not friends. I’ve always wanted to be cute and classy, but when I walk into a store I’m like a deer in headlights and I never know what to get.

If you look in my closet you will find 15 variations of the same outfit. If it worked once in one color, no reason it can’t work again!

Knowing this and knowing that I had to shine at my speaking session at BlogHer, I put myself into the trusty hands of the Moms Fashion File team. If anyone could help me, it was definitely going to be them.

And help me they did.

First of all, they set my mind at ease about my own sense of style. Part of the magical transformation involved two full outfits generously donated by Ann Taylor LOFT. One of the skirts picked out for me by Nicole was the skirt I had just bought the week before and was actually wearing when I walked in to be made over. Score one for me!

Jessica Before

Then they showed me what was wrong with my style…. Uh… that would be the rest.

OK, I jest. All it seems I’m actually missing is the accessories. Cute jackets, fun necklaces, bracelets, belts, nice purse… the works! Allison from Petit Elefant coached me on putting it all together! Score a million for MFF!

Jessica After

Oh, right, you noticed that there’s more to it than just the clothes and accessories?

I begged the stylists from Detour Salon (there thanks to Plum District) to come home with me so they could make me look fabulous every day, but they said they couldn’t move to Nor Cal. I would have begged Tia Dantzler to also come home with me so she could do my make-up all the time, but I could get over the fact that she’s done Barak Obama’s make-up twice to get the words out. Instead I just tried to take mental notes about what she was doing and preened when she said that I had a “good eyeshadow base.” (Whatever that means…) I also drank in all her Johnson’s Baby make-up tips.

When I left, a mere two hours after arriving in the Moms Fashion File Secret Style Suite, I felt like a more confident version of myself. Having a ton of people stop me in the hall to gush about how great I looked didn’t hurt either. (Rumor has it that people were saying I looked like Jackie O. Greatest compliment ever!)

As the day went on though, I found that I was missing who I really was – the curly haired, slightly less put together version of the polished result of 2 hours of styling. Some friends whispered to me that they liked my usual look better too. (One person posted to her FB wall that she’d met three Jessica Rosenbergs at BlogHer. I had to break it to her that she met me three times… oy.)

The hair has come down, the nail polish is long gone, but I’m taking from the whole experience two simple facts. I’m not as style-less as I thought I was. And it doesn’t take a whole lot to take my usual look to the next level.

Mornings now involve a tiny bit more attention to my accessories. I change up my jewelry and pick my shoes more carefully. And when I leave the house I feel a bit more confident.

Because clearly I needed help with that.

Strutting the catwalk.

Thank you to Moms Fashion File for allowing me to partake in such an amazing event. Thank you to the fashion partners – Namaste Handbags, Scotch Naturals, LOFT, Kiyonna, Dr. Scholl’s Shoes, BALI intimates, Lands End, Payless Shoes, Stella Dot and the Sponsors: Plum District, Ciao Bella Gelato, Johnson’s, Stokke, Trop 50, Windows Phone – for making it possible! I’m loving all the gifts I took home and I’m using them all with pride!

All photos by Bella Diva Photo. For more from the event click here.

Cows say Moooooooo

standard November 5, 2010 6 responses

Today I headed to the California Central Valley with a busload of delightful mommy bloggers to go say hi to some cows and to tour two dairy farms. I went up with a wide open mind, just excited to see what I could learn and more than a little curious to see where the milk I drink daily comes from.

I also wanted to see if California cows really are happy cows.

As far as I could see, the cows are perfectly content and they make boatloads of milk (7-10lbs of milk per day per cow. Puts my measly pumping records to shame.)

The issue on organic mild vs rBST free milk vs “conventional” milk deserves a little more research, so I’ll hold off on posting about that for a few days. In the meantime I leave you with this.

Happy cows say mooooo and their milk makes exceptionally good cheese.

Happy cows say moooo. Especially the babies.