Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Was in the mood to take photos today. I had no particular goal other than to practice producing sharp images. I grabbed my comfy old friend the D50, still outfitted with the 50mm prime lens which limited me to only one focal length. No pressure. Hold the camera steady. Maybe get my knees dirty (Which I did, and the elbows of my favorite jacket).
I think I might do this more often.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Today we took our Girl Scout troop on their first field trip. The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium offers educational programs for groups such as Girl Scouts where you can mingle with zoo residents. These are just some highlights of our hour session.
Above: Ernie the mallard duck made his grand entrance by immediately pooping on the instructor. It was a real show stopper.
Ernie then spent the rest of his time begging the instructor for treats.
During the program, the girls learned about how different kinds of animals live in different environments, like the sea and the rain forests. They were a great little audience with rapt attention.
Yazo the Skink got the biggest reaction.
Okay, maybe from just my kid. Look at the anticipation! Yazo was like a cold blooded version of Justin Bieber.
Unfortunately, Yazo had none of The Bieber's moves, and just kinda laid there, as skinks tend to do.
After the program, Lauren and I walked around and took in the sights of the zoo. We both brought our cameras and took a few photos along the way. I couldn't help but be amused by all the people around me with huge zoom lenses, and here I was toting around a my little 50mm prime. When you're in mommy mode, you never know when you're going to be called upon to carry something, so your hands can't be encumbered by a heavy zoom lens.
I really like her purple corduroy pants against the green of the grass.
And I swear, I do not pose her. She just does her thing, and I click away.
Due to the cold weather, most of the animals were inside. This visit, I liked the primate house the best because they were all hanging out right up against the glass so you were practically face to face with them.
Usually the gorillas are in the outside enclosure, a pretty far distance from the onlookers. Seeing them up close and personal really gave a sense of how formidable they are. I just loved how this one was basking in the glow from the above skylight.
Lastly, This little blossom inside the aquarium reminded me that, despite today's cold weather, spring really will be here soon. A side note, I was peeved to find that I accidentally shot this at ISO 800, which is a reminder to me to always check my camera settings (either that, or start shooting in auto ISO).
Friday, March 25, 2011
And thank god for that. As usual, March has been kicking my ass. Just to prove that I'm not imagining things, I went and looked at my blog posts from previous Marchs. In March 2010, we were all sick, and my sweet kitty Beavis was gradually dying from a tumor. In March 2009, we were all sick. March 2008, we didn't appear to be sick. However, I recall that I was working toward a deadline for a major project at work, so I was under a lot of stress. March 2007, one of our furnaces broke.
March 2011 brings a combination of sickness(me and Lauren)/work stress/extracurricular activity stress.
But I can tell that we're getting close to April because things are starting to look up.
To start with, we got (cue Bob Barker) A NEW CAR! It's a 2008 MINI Cooper S convertible. Yes, we now have a pair of MINIs. It's got all kinds of bells and whistles that we haven't figured out yet since we just got it yesterday. I bet as I'm typing this Mark is envisioning antique furniture propped upright in the back seat with the top down...
Also, I'm both sorry and ECSTATIC to report that Lauren's brief career as a dancer has come to a close. In fact, this may come as surprise to some of you who probably didn't even know she was a dancer because I've never actually mentioned it here.
Although from the moment I found out I was having a girl I was pretty much set against the money pit that is dance lessons, I nevertheless decided to set aside my prejudices when she showed an interest. Mark thought that she wouldn't last after one lesson, but she's been hanging in there from the start of the school year until now. During the last several weeks, she had been lodging complaints that she was "bored." Her class was preparing for their dance recital at the end of April, so they must of been doing repetitive routines to practice. Unfortunately, I couldn't really tell you much more about what goes on in dance class because we've never been allowed to watch, nor has the teacher shared any details regarding the curriculum, other than they do a combination of tap, ballet and acrobatics. It was all very secretive, kind of like Freemasonry.
On top of being bored, Lauren also was complaining that both pairs of dance shoes were getting too small for her feet. With less than two months left and knowing she would not be continuing with neither ballet nor tap, the last thing I wanted to do was shell out another $40+ for dance shoes. So I did what any good parent would do: told her that she only had to wear them for 45 minutes each week which is a gentler way of saying, "Suck it up."
Then there was the looming recital. Lauren neither enjoys being the center of attention nor does she like standing around and waiting. The recital involved copious amounts of both, so when she told me that she didn't want get up in front of "all those people", I had a hard time coming up with a good counterargument. After all, I was the one that was going to have to play the role of placating stage mom, the thought of which caused my stomach to clench. On top of that, both the rehearsal and the recital conflicted with the activities that we both prefer: soccer and Girl Scouts.
So yesterday I told her that if she didn't want to go to dance class any longer, she could retire. She replied with a "Yes!" and a fist pump.
Thus, I made the first of what I'm sure will be many parental investments that will not reap return: a $50+ dance recital costume. Mark suggested that I could use it as a photo prop. Yeah, like I could ever come up with a bribe sizable enough to convince her to put on a black tutu and gold lame body suit. Ain't gonna happen.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Lite Bright. The new Lite Brite sure is a lot different from the one I remember. For one, the new one runs off of batteries - you don't plug it in. It also has a "on" switch, but once it's on, you can't turn it off. It eventually goes off on it's own. However, the light pegs sure do get everywhere, just like I remember.
By the way, I sat in the dark inside Lauren's closet to get this shot. The things that I do...
L is also for lime green. Say "Hello" to my little friend. She and I have been getting to know each other for about a month now. One would think that a new camera would be a major announcement here, but I've been keeping it on the down low because I'm still trying to get used to it and haven't fully transitioned from my D50 (Although with the exception of this photo, I used the D7000 for all the photos in this post). Think of it like getting a new car after 20 years. The concept is still the same, but now there's all these new features like keyless entry, navigation system, Onstar, Bluetooth and iPod connection.
L is also for latch hook. Mark my words, the day will come when I finish this thing. Now that I will be big news here, I promise!
L is for, well, you know. Her.
L is for Lemon Chalet Cremes, which are still in abundance around here, along with her sisters Thin Mints, Tagalongs and Trefoils.
Bonus photo: In honor of "springing" forward tomorrow morning, here's a little bit of spring. With Lauren around, the newly sprouting crocuses didn't have a prayer.
Monday, March 7, 2011
So besides photography, what else has been going on around here? For one, we moved Lauren into a newly remodeled bedroom. Yep, she's movin' on up. Not to the East Side, but maybe the east side of the house. Not sure which direction that room faces.
Anyway, her new space is much bigger than the old one and comes complete with a walk-in closet. She picked out the color for the walls (Behr's Pooh's Favorite Things), and while mommy thought it was a too little bright at first, it's grown on her now that we have all the furniture in place.
Other than paint, the only new investments were the bedding, the wall decals, some dresser knobs, a throw rug and two goldfish (We'll get to them). I was originally perusing Pottery Barn Kids for the bedding, but as everyone knows, you look to Pottery Barn for design inspiration then go somewhere else to purchase the same thing a lot cheaper. For example, Pottery Barn had similar cute birds in trees decals for $50, but the ones we ultimately used were purchased from Target for only $12. The bedding was also from Target. The pattern is also available as a quilt, but we went for the comforter set because it had turquoise highlights to match the walls and came with cute mushroom printed sheets! And yes, I have to admit that I was the influence behind the owl decor. However, Lauren was all for it as soon as I showed it to her. C'mon - it has hedgehogs too!
Most of the furniture was repurposed. The daybed was bought at Ikea several years ago. I fell in love with the glass ball lamp when I bought it a few years ago, but never could find a good home for it until now. The repainted nightstand came from my nursery when I was a baby.
Also repainted was this dresser, which came from Mark's room when he was a child. The pink knobs are also from Target. As I've mentioned before, Lauren is a very lucky little girl in that she has a mommy who has amassed a large collection of dolls, toys and other interesting things throughout the years. The Bradley dolls on top of the dresser were a little stroke of genius. We uncovered them as we were cleaning out the bedroom's closet, so when I offered them up to Lauren, she eagerly claimed them for herself. I've always associated them with morning sickness because I purchased them at an antique fair on the day that it first came over me. Now they'll have a happier connotation.
The painting above the dresser was made by my late great uncle Dom. It had hung in the room previously, and Lauren insisted that it stay.
Last but not least, the fish. When we told Lauren that we were moving her into the bigger bedroom, she sweetly asked if she could have a goldfish. Since this seemed to be a simple request, we acquiesced, even though we already own 50+ fish in the pond outside. Two hours, three stores and approximately $40 later, Sofie and Julie now swim happily under the watchful gaze of the Bradley dolls.
This morning's breakfast. Trail mix variety with whipped strawberry cream cheese.
I call this, "half past Dopey." I often ask myself why I spend so much time taking photos of stuff around the house. Sometimes I get frustrated because half the time I feel like I'm spinning my wheels or just using the same old techniques. Then there are photos like this one that remind me why it's so important for me to keep at it. Because only through practice do you grow.
My grandmother gave me this watch when I was a little girl. It still works. At one point, I was snapping away trying different angles and exposures, when I noticed that the minute hand had moved to the seven! Anyway, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a shot I liked. I tried all the usual tricks. I used window light. I got close. I got far. I had Lauren wear it for a bit while I took photos of it on her wrist. Nothing was working, and yes, I was getting real frustrated. Then, on the table I saw a patch of sunlight next to my computer mouse. I placed the watch in the middle of it and took a shot. Then I took another, underexposing in order to offset the bright sunlight on the watch face. I kept on doing this until mostly everything but the watch face was in shadow.
Again, it's not high art, but it's progress.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Forced Lauren to sit for me yesterday. The exercise was moderately painful, as she kept complaining about wearing the baseball hat. Maybe it's because she plays soccer.
Just a general note about these: I'm having some challenges managing the dark circles under her eyes. If I remove too much, she loses some of her character and doesn't look like herself (Like this top photo). I think I did a better job on those that follow.
At least she didn't act totally put out the whole time, so I did get some smiles. This one is my favorite.
I'm not sure why this one has a different look to it, as the EXIF data indicates that the camera settings are identical to the other photos. I must have flashed her differently, and I don't remember the details.
And this is when you know that it's time to throw in the towel.