Project 365

Happy new year everyone! Just a quick post today about resolutions.

I know, I hate them too.

I don’t hate them actually. I hate myself for failing to keep them. And so, in turn, I hate them.

But there is one new years resolution that I actually kept, and so I always remember it fondly. In 2007, I made a resolution to take one picture every day and post it to my blog. That blog doesn’t exist anymore, but the pictures do and I’m so glad I have that record. It was hard, but I can honestly say that doing that 365 project was the single biggest thing that improved my photography, more than anything else. You know what they say about practice. Well it really is true.

Here are four of my favorite images from the beginning of my project.

2007

Here are four of my favorites from the end of my project.

2008

As you can see, not only did I learn about light and all that stuff, but I also decided what was important to me that I wanted to focus on photographing.  (my kids)  🙂

These days, it’s so much easier to do a 365 picture-a-day project with phones making it simple because you always have a camera ready at your disposal. This last year, I did a 365 project without even half trying using the free app called Project 365.

365

In fact, the iphone has made doing a picture a day so simple that I plan to keep doing it and I know it’s one resolution that will be easy to keep.

This is how I’m going to be doing 365 pictures in 2013:

I will be using the Project 365 app again because it’s so easy (and did I mention free?) and it keeps it all organized for you.

I will be doing the Project Life 365 challenge from Design Aglow. (@projectlife365 on instagram) They will give daily prompts and challenges, which can be helpful when you get in a rut with your pictures and are running low on inspiration. You simply add your photo on instagram and then add the hashtag #projectlife365 as well as the hashtag for the day. The first week of hashtags looks like this: #resolution, #you_today, #optimistic, #graceful, #view, #still_life, and #simplicity.  If you want to sign up for projectlife365, go here.

At the end of the year I will be putting together a book of my photos. I might use blurb again because they are affordable and easy and their quality is good. (I used them to print my photos from the 2007 project)  Or I might just try out a different album company I’ve never tried before. (any recommendations?)

blurb

If you want to join in, I’d love company! Follow me on instagram (@jodipfunder) and play along by tagging your daily picture #purdue365. I’m excited to see what you have to share!

13 is going to be a very lucky year. I can feel it.

 

UPDATE: When January 1st rolled around, I tried to re-use my project 365 app and realized that the only way to use it for a second year is to replace the photos I have in there from last year. So I looked around for a different app to use and found Collect: Photo a Day, which I actually like even more than Project 365!  Features I like about it: it is easy to use and keep photos organized, just like 365. But I like the look of it better because it keeps all the photos from one month on the screen together so you can see a whole month at once (personal preference; I just like that). Plus, it has the option of adding different albums, so you could do different 365 projects for different subjects (I might just do an album for each of my kids and have 365 portraits of each of them!) which means I can keep using this from one year to the next and just add a different album for each year. Also, the 365 app didn’t allow you to delete photos, just replace them (big complaint from a lot of users) and Collect allows you to delete. So, Collect is what I’m going to use in 2013 for my 365 iphone pictures.

 

 

Photo Ornaments

I believe in printing photos. I believe in giving photos as gifts. I believe in decorating your home with the photos you love. This project combines all three.

How to make a photo ornament:

Create a 5×7 (or you could do a 4×6) in photoshop (or whatever editing program you’re using) and use grid lines to divide it into quarters. Then choose your four images, open them, and drag them onto your 5×7. You can resize them first so they fit into one of the quarters, or you can resize them after dragging them onto your image by simply holding down your shift key and dragging the corners to resize. You can use the text tool to add the year, or you could hand-stamp that on later.

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I printed my 5×7 already mounted on a board. If your lab doesn’t offer that option, you could try mounting it on styrene board with spray adhesive. Let me know how that goes.  (see update at end of post)

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Cut the four images apart with kitchen scissors. It’s alright if the edges are rough.

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Drill holes for hanging.

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Take sandpaper and sand the edges, even taking some of the image itself off.

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Put a ribbon through, and you have a beautiful keepsake. We love pulling out these ornaments every year and putting them on our tree!

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I try to make a couple of these every year with my favorite photos, and I also make an ornament for everyone whose picture I have taken during the year and send it to them at Christmas time.

 

 

Updated: I tried making these by mounting the picture myself, using a board from an old school binder my son had that was falling apart. The edges don’t sand the same way, so I cut them rounded to make it look a little more finished. And be careful not to get glue all over the picture. Other than that, it worked great and was super simple. I even made the holes by just pushing a ballpoint pen through the board because I was extra lazy.

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How to Take a Picture of Your Christmas Tree

Step One: Go to the woods and pick out the tree. For some of us, the woods are in a lot next to Costco that was a pumpkin patch a few weeks ago.

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Step two: Decide on a tree. When you have found the perfect tree, take a moment to stand in awe and reverence and sing the hallelujah chorus, which goes something like this, “Hurry and get it on the car; there are no bathrooms here and we’ve got to go.”

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Step three: Get it home. Assign one of the kids to stick their hand out the window and hold the tree onto the car, just because it freaks them out and is funny. Then feel guilty and tell them they can let go of the tree and admit that it will not fall off the car.

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Step four: Decorate tree. Curse chandelier that is in the way of your pictures.

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Step five: Find tripod. Dust it off. Attach camera. Set your shutter speed low, about 3 seconds or longer. Set your iso fairly low, under 500. Set your aperture to expose your shot correctly. (by the way, if you set your aperture to a high number, like 16, then your lights will have a starburst look to them. If you set it more open, at 4 or lower, then your lights will be more of a glow.) If you don’t know how to shoot in manual, try shutterspeed priority and just set your shutter speed to a slow speed and your camera will do the rest. (all lights are turned off except the Christmas tree lights)

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Step six: Add some people to your photo. Tell them to hold really still. Openly mock anyone who cannot. Laugh a lot.

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Step seven: bask in the Christmas glow.

And ask yourself, why can’t we be like Christmas trees, and the fatter we are the better we look?

 

 

Buying a Camera

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I wonder if there’s any pie left,” followed by, “Does stuffing go with pie?” after which your thoughts go to, “I wonder if there are any Black Friday deals left that I should be taking advantage of?”

Ah, Black Friday.

Every year, as people’s thoughts turn toward Christmas shopping, I get asked about a thousand times, what is the best camera to buy?

That, my friends, is not a simple question. And I can’t give you a simple answer. But I can give you some direction, I hope.

First of all, go digital if you want to learn. Film is fun and nostalgic but digital is much better for learning because you’re not paying for every mistake. (and you can make a lot more mistakes, which gets you better faster).

You need to decide what is important to you and what it is about your current equipment (assuming you have a camera) that is disappointing you. The kind of photography you’re doing will affect your decision. Having good zoom capabilities will be helpful in sports photography and wildlife photography, and if you’re going with a point-and-shoot you definitely want optical zoom and not digital zoom (on a dslr the zoom would be determined by the lens). If video is important to you, then choose a camera that gives you that option as well. If you’re into portrait photography, you’ll probably want to invest in some nice prime lenses along with a dslr. If you’re traveling with your camera, portability may be the most important factor to you. Draw up a list of what are the most important features you want your camera to have.

Do you want a “point & shoot” or a DSLR? There is some good information here about the pros and cons of each. A dslr will give you more control and flexibility in the long run but will require more patience and study in the beginning to learn how to use it. It will generally give you better quality pictures and will retain its value better. It can also be a definite money suck as you start wanting better and different lenses, and some of the lenses are more expensive than the the camera! It’s also big and bulky, and not so great when you’re traveling and can make you worry that it will get lost/stolen/broken.

Megapixels are not necessarily the most important element to look for (and pay for) in a camera. Anything over 5 or 6 is probably going to be more than enough for what you’re doing. (usually after the camera name it will say “5.1mp” or “10.6mp” or something; that refers to the megapixels) People make more of a big deal out of mp than they should;  In fact, some of the recent camera releases have been criticized because the sheer size of data being contained in each image file is an overwhelming burden to carry (and download, and print).

As far as naming specific cameras, I really don’t keep up-to-date on the myriad cameras available on the market today, especially with point-and-shoots. A knowledgeable salesperson would be more helpful to you there. I shoot with nikon, so that’s basically what I know. Read some camera reviews on the specific cameras available today and how they perform.

Also, if you find a deal that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are some very disreputable companies that advertise cameras for very low prices, and then after you purchase, they call you and give you a high-pressured sales pitch that ends with you paying ridiculous amounts for accessories you are convinced you need and probably a different camera than the one you originally wanted. You can read more about those kind of companies in this review here. B&H is always reliable, but I love Amazon personally and don’t shop anywhere else for camera equipment. I also love that I can find used equipment on there and get a feel for what is the going rate for old equipment I may be looking to buy/sell for my classes.

When I look for cameras for my students to learn on, what I’m looking for is a camera that allows them to use these modes: auto, shutter speed priority, aperture priority, and manual.  A lot of point-and-shoots these days have a bunch of different “programs” or “modes” like portraits, sports, nighttime, fireworks, macro, wildlife, children, etc. Basically those are just different kinds of auto and don’t really help the student to learn because they take the decisions out of the student’s hands. Again, what is important to you — that you learn the skill of photography and possibly go through a lot of frustration as you’re learning, or that you take pictures and enjoy yourself right from the get-go. (Of course, most dslr cameras will have an auto mode and can be used the same as a point-and-shoot).

 

Again, I wish I had a simpler answer. I wish I could point you to a certain camera and say “this one, this one right here is the best deal and the camera that will make all your photography dreams come true.” But then again, looking can be half the fun. Happy shopping, and if you have any camera experience of your own that you have loved or hated, please share.

 

Now I’m off to update from my old 4gb to some spankin new 64gb memory cards. Then I will reward my shopping prowess with some pie.

 

 

 

Halloween

This is why I don’t even put forth an effort anymore on Halloween.

We peaked in 2008.

Themed family homemade costumes. The lion costume was made from one of my grandmother’s old blankets.  Last year, I even re-used the old lion costume.

I’ll never top 2008, so I don’t even try. This year, I bought my son a plastic blood-soaked knife. That’s the extent of my halloween effort.

How’s your halloween shaping up?

 

 

Simple Photo Display

If you’re anything like me, you have a million photos and a million intentions to display those photos in various ways around your house, and yet you never can find the time/energy/motivation/money to get it done.

Am I all alone? Please say I’m not alone.

So we just moved from a house that had maybe two walls we could hang pictures on to a house with wall space galore. I get giddy thinking about all the possibilities for photo displays. My pinterest folder spilleth over. And yet, most rooms remain undone, with pictures in boxes or empty frames perched against the wall. Alas, the time/energy/motivation/money dilemma strikes again.

But, this week I managed to get one small spot done! Hallelujah!

Probably the only reason I actually completed this project was because it was 1) simple, 2) fast, and 3) cheap. My favorite things combined in one!

To complete this project, I took some string, attached it to the wall with a couple old nails, and then clipped on some of our favorite photos along with some old cards, pages from books, music, postcards, etc.

Everything in the display has special meaning to us.

 

 

Next up: this room…

I might just leave the clearance stickers on the frames for a bit longer though. Because I figure, I get so happy in the store when I see those red stickers, so they should make me happy every time I see them, right?

 

 

 

Photo Friday: Moving Day

Please excuse the mess around here; we’ve been moving.

Packing up, 2012

Although we’re excited to move on, it was a very bittersweet good-bye to our old house.

Building the house, 2003

2003 and 2012

Of course I wanted to document the whole thing, but I was busy packing and cleaning and usually couldn’t find the camera let alone find time to use it. So I took a lot of pictures with my phone. One of the reasons I love my iphone.

Once we sold our house, we started looking at houses to buy. Things happened a little more quickly than we expected, and when this all came together I was out of the country with the kids and my husband was looking at houses by himself. When we bought our new house, I had never seen it. I saw pictures of the house, but I had never stepped foot inside the house.

They were good pictures.

5 Tips for Taking Good Pictures when Selling your House:

  1. Use natural light as much as possible. I can’t tell you how many ugly yellow/discolored photos I saw, or pictures taken at night when the windows are black and the flash doesn’t quite reach the creepy looking dark corners. Who wants to live in a house that reminds them of a dungeon? Pictures like that just depressed me and dropped those houses to the bottom of my list.
  2. Use a tripod. Here’s why:  you’re probably going to be at a low shutter speed because A) you want to let in a lot of light and make your pictures look bright, and B) because you’ll want to be at a narrow aperture (higher number) so more of the picture is in focus (which will make your shutter speed lower to compensate). Also, when you’re taking pictures of the front of your house, if you want to get that cool starburst look from your front porch lights, a narrow aperture will do that.
  3. Clean up! I probably don’t need to tell you this. But I was amazed at how many people didn’t clean up their clutter before taking pictures! Just shove it to one side of the room if you have to, but get it out of the picture! On the other hand, empty rooms can be confusing — it’s hard to tell scale without anything as a reference point, and it’s hard to tell one room from another sometimes. I looked at a lot of pictures of empty rooms and all the bedrooms looked the same so I wasn’t sure if I was seeing repeats of the same photos or if the rooms really were identically boring.
  4. Use a wide angle lens. You want the rooms to look big! Wide angle lenses will do that for you (focal length less than about 35mm). Don’t get so close to objects that they get distorted by the wide angle, but stand back and show the whole room in all its glory. Standing at an angle to the room will also add dimension and depth. Don’t try to get creative and show close-ups of things that really don’t matter. I don’t want to see close-ups of your carpet fibers (yes, I saw pictures like that) or your favorite china collection (yes, I saw that too).
  5. Please, if your point-and-shoot has an HDR setting, don’t use it! After a series of those pictures I would feel like putting a bag of ice over my eyes and lying still until I could see straight again. HDR can be helpful when you’re dealing with difficult lighting conditions (for instance if your sky is overexposed and your house is properly exposed, you can layer two images and add the sky back in), but when used with a heavy hand it can turn photos into caricatures of a house. You want the house to look pretty, not cartoonish.  (if you want to read a good article about HDR etc, go here)

Good luck to any of you who may be planning a move. Moving is one of those major life-altering events that can be cathartic and traumatizing and exciting and scary and everything inbetween, and that cycle repeats every five minutes or so. I’m glad we came through virtually unscathed. Now that the dust is settling… and I’m watching it in a new light… I’m looking forward to getting to know this new house and start documenting our life here. Just as soon as I get these boxes all unpacked.

On Neil, Pressure, Light, and Moondust

Credit: NASA/U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

 

When Neil Armstrong died a few days ago, I was reminded of a Mythbusters episode I watched a while ago which busted the theory that the moon landing had been faked (skip about 3 minutes into the video to get to the good stuff) and to do it, the show analyzed several of the photos from the moon landing that Neil Armstrong took.

credit: NASA

When they dissect this photo, the Mythbusters talk all about reflective surfaces and throw around words like regolith and albido (go to about 1 minute into the video).  As a photographer, I was fascinated by it all. By the discussion of light and shadow and sources of light and how light works and things that I think about every day when I take pictures.

I’m sure Neil Armstrong understood light in a way that I never will. And yet he probably didn’t even think about it. I get paralyzed for him when I think about what he was faced with, how he had to capture this story for everyone in a situation where the light could be completely different from anything he had seen before.  Can you imagine? Not just a new location you’ve never been to before with a couple complaining kids but literally a different planet.

I’m fascinated by the concept of this man, this scientist and pilot and astronaut and engineer, being handed a camera and told that he was to be the official photographer for the mission, recording the moon landing for Life Magazine and NASA and, well, the world in general. No do-overs. No chance to fix a mistake if he made a monumental photographic blunder. This was the one and only time he could capture this historic moment.

No pressure.

And yet, as his fellow-astronaut Charlie Duke said, he was ““probably the coolest under pressure of anyone I ever had the privilege of working with.”

credit: NASA and LIFE magazine

 

In the picture below, we can see the photographer Neil Armstrong reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet.

credit: NASA

I love this picture. I love the little details, the self-portrait whether intended or not, the light… ah, I love the light in this shot. I don’t know that Neil Armstrong ever even considered the light when taking these pictures, or if he tried in any way to create beautiful photographs or if he was just cataloguing the mission. I wonder if he was nervous at all about messing up the pictures, or if that was so far down on his list of worries that it didn’t even register. I think he probably just considered the photography to be yet another part of his duty, like gathering samples. He did his job, and in the end, it was enough. More than enough. His family called him a “reluctant hero.”

He said, “the unknowns were rampant. There were just a thousand things to worry about.” They didn’t know if they could get to the moon. They didn’t know if they could land on the moon. They didn’t know if they could take off again. They didn’t know if they could return safely to earth. They didn’t know if they would ever be the same again. Just a few of the worries on their list of a thousand things to worry about.

What do we worry about? Will we fail? Will we succeed? Will we figure it out? Will it matter?

Sometimes I’m paralyzed by the fears and the worries.

Sometimes I need to let go of those thousand things to worry about and just gather samples.

Back to School Pictures

Back to school. You’ve bought a million school supplies, hunted down the exact right kind of notebook/pencil/whatever it is they need, washed enough clothes to at least get them through the first week, packed and re-packed their backpacks, planned out their school lunches, organized their lockers, talked to their teachers, and you finally get to that big day, the frantic exciting nauseating tearful day of back to school, and there’s one more thing you forgot but you can’t quite remember what it was… oh yeah. Pictures.

I am horrible at taking back to school pictures. I usually remember as I’m driving away from the school. It’s ironic, because I’m known at the school as “that lady with the camera” but I almost always forget to get out my camera and take pictures of the kids when they’re heading back to school. This year I looked through some of the ones I have taken, and I resolved to do better. And I’m going to share with you some pointers on how to take better back to school pictures…

Take some pictures with school-related things in the background to tell the story of that first day. The school bus, the school itself, books, backpacks, lunchboxes, students, etc. These will spark memories later on that you had forgotten. Some of my favorite pictures from the first day of school are ones where I can see the kids’ friends (and parents of friends, who became my friends) who we didn’t even know at the time, in the background of the picture. If you want to get some pictures that show the hustle and bustle of the day, try taking your kid’s picture with them in the middle of a sea of students. Two tips for this kind of picture: use a wide aperture, and turn it black and white.

Of course you have to get a shot of your kid all by himself. For this one, don’t overthink it. You just want to capture what they look like on this day.

You can also stand them in front of a plain wall/door/locker/whatever and then add text to the picture later to describe the details you want to remember. I’ve also done this where they hold a piece of paper or a chalkboard with this information written on it.

If you stand them next to the same thing each year (the front door of your house for instance) then you can see how they’ve grown from year to year. And I always love to stand them next to their teacher on the first and last day of class to see how they’ve grown and also to see how their relationship with their teacher has changed (they’re usually a little more awkward in the first picture and then all smiles and hugs in the last one).

Most importantly, just take a picture. Don’t overcomplicate it. Any picture you take will end up being among your favorite pictures because it captures a huge milestone and preserves that memory for you.

Happy back to school! Don’t cry until they’re out of sight.

Photo Friday: Lazy Days of Summer

Today marks the end of summer. It’s back to school and the old routine starts up all over again.

I wanted to get so much done this summer. I had a mile-long list of projects I wanted to accomplish, and of course photography had a list all its own. I can’t believe that summer is coming to a close and I still had so many things I wanted to do.

Here are some of the shots I did check off my list:

Mud fights

Swinging

Blowing bubbles

Swimming

Summer Foods

Tubing

Adventure with the boys

Kite flying

Life at the lake

Fun with the hose

farm life

more adventures with the boys

Campfires

If you’re one of those lucky ones that doesn’t go back to school the beginning of August, you can still get some of it done! Here are a few more ideas for those quintessential summer photos:

  • Bonfires
  • camping
  • fishing
  • a lemonade stand
  • drive-in movie
  • picnics
  • watermelon
  • fireworks
  • sidewalk chalk
  • fireflies
  • water balloons
  • a sandcastle
  • road trip
  • fun at a fair
  • sprinklers
  • parades
  • FAMILY!

What was on your summer photo list? Did you get it all done?