Once a cat person always a cat person… or not?

standard December 30, 2013 1 response

I am a cat person. Let it be clear that I have always considered myself to be a cat person. I like how they smell, I like how low maintenance they are, I like evening cuddles on the couch. I especially like how little of me they ask for.

Is that wrong of me to admit?

If it is, oh well.

My cat, Axl, is smart, easy going, and very, very independent. His expectations of me are that I will feed him twice a day, keep his kitty litter relatively clean, open the door or window when he wants to go out, and share my spot on the couch after the kids have gone to bed (preferably without having to compete with the laptop).

That’s pretty much it.

Chill cat.

He doesn’t mind if I leave for the day. He doesn’t mind if I ignore him when I’m on deadline. He’s happy to just be.

So when the kids started lobbying for a dog over a year ago I balked. There are already a lot of people who rely on me for their emotional and physical well-being. I didn’t really need another body to make me feel like I was lacking.

Dogs, in my experience (and I grew up with dogs… so there is some factual basis to this observation) are needy. They want to play, to be entertained, to be walked, to bask in your attention. And they’re great at returning it. But they do need a lot.

And I? Well I was quite tapped out on being needed so I resisted.

And then we dog sat this summer and I… well… I enjoyed being loved so unconditionally. So we dog sat again… and it was, if that’s possible, even better second time around.

Suddenly all that need didn’t feel as oppressive as I thought it would.

There is something to be said for unconditional acceptance. Dogs, they need, but they also don’t criticize. They’re excited about a walk with you whether it’s to the mailbox or a two hour hike around town. They’re happy for any treat you offer, even just a pat on the head. They’re quite happy to sit in a chair while you work, and just as happy when you call it quits and offer to go for a w-a-l-k-i-e-s.

Which is how I found myself researching dogs. And how we found ourselves bringing this one home yesterday.

This is Dottie. She’s a 20 week old mini Australian Labradoodle. She’s about 10lbs now and should grow to be around 20lbs. She’s hypoallergenic and she doesn’t shed. She loves cuddles. She gives kisses. That’s her new absolute favoritest toy in the WHOLE WORLD. Until she drops it and plays with something else.

The girls are in heaven, the husband is in love, the cat is pouting in a closet, and me? Well… I might be on my way to considering the possibility that I’m not just a cat person any more.

Mama said we’d go for a walk after this post was written. I’m waiting patiently. 

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.

Click!

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.

Getting out from behind the camera. Literally.

standard September 18, 2013 Leave a response

In some 20 days or so I will be boarding a plane and heading east for the only conference I’m attending this year.

I needed a year off from traveling, from shmoozing, from networking, and from trying to fit myself back into the mold I had made for myself before working for Tiny Prints.

Sometimes you just need time away to find yourself. 

I had plans to only attend Type A Parent Conference in Atlanta, then I learned about Click Retreat and decided I could stretch myself and attend two. As life would have it, something came up to make my trip to Atlanta impossible and, once again, there was just one.

I loved the thought of Click because it’s 100% focused on photography, which was something I truly wanted to work on this year, and 0% focused on my blog, which is something I really like to do sometimes.

A whole weekend spent behind the camera taking pictures in a beautiful place, surrounded by great people. Sounded like a dream come true to me.

That the delightful Grace Duffy is coming with me is both the whipped cream and cherry on the cake.

I’ve been counting down the days.

Then, this week, we received some pre-conference homework. We have to write about what “season of life” we find ourselves in and take (or have someone take) self portraits representing that season.

The homework was assigned by Me Ra Koh, one of my all-time idols, so I was all “squeeee! selfies! introspective work! yay!”

But reality has smacked me upside the head and now I’m definitely all “ack. I haven’t lost all the weight I said I’d lose. I don’t want pictures of me. I like being behind the camera. ugh. what a drag. how does one even represent a season in a photo?”

So, what’s a girl living her year of “brave” to do?

I’m asking my most no-nonsense, ‘cut the crap and just get on with it’ friend to take the photos. He’s an amazing photographer so I’m confident that the photos will look great. But mostly I’m counting on him to not let me weasel out of the homework.

After that I can go back to enjoying being behind the camera, right?

A Week in the Mountains: Wordless Wednesday

standard August 1, 2012 2 responses

A mere 5 hours away from our home lies an incredible lake. We hadn’t been for the last two years. I’m glad we went.

Knee deep water forever. Kid heaven.

Chairlift to the top!

Still room for silly

And for sisterly love

Beauty as far as the eye can see.

Ok, ok, I’ll spare you the other 150 pictures I took. Check out everyone else’s Wordless Wednesday though!