DIY Way to Display Vacation Memories

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This summer had a few fun family adventures and location visits. I’m an avid collector of sand, shells, and anything natural that reminds me of the location. I usually keep a little jar filled with a bit of sand, from each trip, but I had the urge to do something different this summer.

As we bring summer vacations to a slow close, I wanted to create something to display the sand/natural elements WITH a picture.  After checking out Pinterest for quite awhile and not finding what I wanted, I decided to go to the craft store to see if that helped spur a creative idea… and it did!

The materials I gathered:

Wood Blocks
4×4 prints
White Paint: Martha Stewart White, Statin
Gold Paint: Martha Steward Gold, Metallic
Jar of Beads
Sand/Stones
Paint Brushes
Mod Podge
Glue Gun (I already had this)

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Step 1: Empty the beads from the container (my daughter was thrilled because I gave them all to her).

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Step 2: Paint the lid. Next time, I’d go with lighter coats, but more. I took the quick path and put too much on which made it get a bit lumpier than I’d like.

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Step 3: Fill the vial up with sand and paint the wood block white (I also considered staining it with a deep wood stain which would have been good for a rustic feeling!)

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Step 4: Choose your which 4×4 print you’d like to use. Paint on a light coat of Mod Podge and adhere to the wood. I placed it a bit higher than center.

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Step 5: Print out a page with the location, month, year, etc. Anything you’d like to use as a title for your finished piece. I printed this in 3 different sizes since I wasn’t sure which would work out best after cutting it out. Using a paper cutter kept the lines  nice and straight (I’m terrible with scissors and knew that would turn out less than ideal!).

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Step 6: Adhere the cut piece of paper in the same way as the picture, by painting a VERY light coat of Mod Podge on the back.

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Step 7: Again, using a light hand, paint Mod Podge over the entire cover of the wood block.  It will appear cloudy at first, which will fade as it dries. Be extra careful when painting over the printer paper as it will may bubble. Attempting to smooth this down with your finger will dirty it up, so continue to use the brush, softly. As it dries some of the bubbles will disappear.

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Step 8: After the Mod Podge has dried (takes 30 minutes, tops) hot glue the sandy vial (or other natural memento, like the rocks) onto the bottom of the wood display.

Voila! A unique way to remember your vacation!

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I used 4- 3m strips on the back of each wood block, placed on each corner (I actually started only using two, but one of the wood blocks fell, so stick with 4!).

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The options with this are quite limitless… and I’m really trying to resist the urge to continue making them with ALL of our previous vacations :).

highlights from my little man’s birthday

Shooting a ‘day in the life’ always sounds like a great idea but then I get caught up with the need to shoot every detail and by 11am I’m spent. Instead, I ditched perfection because in the end, I just want my memories. I followed my son around, though loosely, to shoot the highlights of his fourth birthday this past week. It was both fun to do and to document for him because this is the first birthday that he has been truly excited for. He understood each part of it, anticipated the actual day and planned what he’d like for presents (a submarine and a Siberian Husky Mini Hideaway Pet were high on his list). His personality has changed so much within the last six months. He went from a frustrated toddler to a little boy that understands more and is far more patient. This little love bug is an extreme cuddler and always wants to snuggle up to my face. I often have to ask for some space, haha.

For his birthday he woke to a room full of balloons (27 because 3 popped in the process of us blowing them up, though he keeps telling people 70– so we will go with 70 because that makes me a more dedicated mom, right?).  We made a few trips around town, to the pool, to the movies to see Inside Out (have you seen this? We loved it!) and he requested a specific pizza place in town for dinner. Turns out he didn’t even want pizza, he wanted to play the old school ‘PacMan’ game in the front of the restaurant. I don’t think he even took one bite of pizza but we brought along a bag full of quarters for him to play the game (we usually let him think he’s playing, but this time he got to kill himself over and over again for $.25 at a time).  He believed that when he ran into the little goblin things that he was winning. He won. Over and over again.

We finished up his birthday by singing him ‘Jingle Bells’, at his request, instead of ‘Happy Birthday’ while he blew out his candles. My parents were there and my in laws FaceTimed us for the candle blowing and we sang the best rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’ we could. I even made the announcement that he is a big brother because of the sweet little baby I’m growing in my tummy!

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So You Wanna Learn Your Camera Modes…

Welcome to Post 3 in the “So You Wanna…” series.

Missed the first two posts?
Post 1 – Purchasing A Camera
Post 2- Purchasing A Lens

camera-modes

Here’s where we get to it and you need to really need to read and practice.  You’ve got your camera, you’ve got a lens.  Now… we have to talk about actual photography and images.  This post is going to have lots of external links because this is a loaded topic and one that will take time and, perhaps, more information than just this post can provide.  I’m absolutely giving you the bare minimum and going fast through big topics – but there are A LOT of resources in this post and I’d recommend going through each one and taking your time.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments or email me if you have something you can’t figure out ([email protected]). Others may be having the same issue and I can add more to this post!

We can’t talk about the camera without talking first about EXPOSURE and what that is.  Exposure, in it’s simplest terms, refers to the brightness or darkness in an image.  Too bright? Just right? Too dark?

This image, below, is overexposed.  There are “blown” areas which are too bright and have lost detail.MAS0977(pp_w935_h622)

This image is properly exposed.  His skin has detail and none of the areas are pure black.

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This image is too dark. There are “clipped” areas which are too dark and have lost detail.

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There are exceptions.   Typically (and this is overgeneralizing and open for interpretation) you want the skin to be properly exposed.  That’s the most important portion of an image.  Bright areas can often be “blown” and in a case like this, it’s considered “correct”.  This image also has lots of very dark areas that are “clipped” and too dark.  However, it still works.

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Notice how I’m using quotes around the word “correct”.  There is a lot of room for judgment in photography.  Photography is a creative exercise and you are expressing your vision.  However, learning all of the rules and getting things “correct”, first, is important.  To consciously make your decisions about each image and know why you did something (not just convincing yourself you did something on purpose… which I have done!) is the ultimate goal.  This takes practice.  Lots.  I’m still learning.  I will ALWAYS be learning.  The hardest part is allowing yourself to feel the frustration and then walking away from the camera for a bit and coming back refreshed.

Ok – so now that I’ve explained exposure… how in the world do we make the decisions? How does one get an image from their mind into their camera?   You change, create, and fix exposure using three items – Aperture, & Shutter Speed, ISO.

First we will discuss Aperture. We talked for a minute about aperture back when we were discussing lenses.  The lower the number the more wide open and more light you can get into your camera.  This is a good thing.  Think of it like a pupil – to let more light in you want a wide open pupil.  On a sunny day when you need less light you want a smaller pupil.

When you buy a lens that can go to f/1.8, f/2.0, f/2.8 you can let in more light because the opening is larger- even though the number is smaller.  Alternatively, if you use a smaller aperture (larger number f/5.6, f/11 and higher) you will let less light into your lens – imagine a smaller pupil. I know it seems backwards… you’d think that a higher number would equal more light, but alas, it’s not.

To recap ….

LARGE pupil for lots of light – aperture opening f/1.8, f/2.0, f/2.8
SMALL pupil for a little bit of light- aperture opening f/5.6, f/11
(remember our lens discuss… most kit lenses that come with cameras have apertures that start at f/4.0 or f/5.6…)

Aperture is the reason that I ended up picking up a camera.  I love the look  of a beautifully blurry background… and this is how you achieve that background.  The post, “Aperture- The Basics” on Click It Up A Notch does a fabulous job of explaining this concept.

Here’s my trusty uninterested assistant… Make a note: when my aperture changes, my other settings change, too (more on this in a moment)

Image Below is at f/1.8 (notice the blurriness behind her) Other image settings Shutter Speed 1/250  ISO 200

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Image Below is at f/5.6 (less blurry behind her) — Other image settings Shutter Speed 1/125  ISO 1600

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Image Below is at f/11 (even less blurry behind her) — Other image settings Shutter Speed 1/125  ISO 4000

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Next up is Shutter Speed.  This is most important when you have a moving subject.  If your image is blurry, shutter speed is most often the culprit.  When the kids are moving around I need a fast shutter speed to freeze their action.  Slow shutter speeds are used to show intentional movement, like in this post on Clickin Moms, Slow Shutter Speed by Allison Zercher.  When I am hand holding my camera I typically keep my shutter speed at 1/125 of a second (will show as 125 on the camera) or faster (1/250, 1/400, and up).  If I go below 1/125 of a second there will absolutely be camera shake from my hands and the image will be blurry.  If my subject is moving at all, I try to keep my shutter speed at around 1/400 of a second and faster.

The image below is shot at shutter speed 1/30 of a second — other settings aperture f/10 ISO200

 

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The image below is shot at shutter speed 1/400 of a second — other settings aperture f/2.2 ISO400

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Finally there is ISO.  For whatever reason this was the hardest concept for me to wrap my head around.  I confused it with a pixelated image (which just means that the image isn’t big enough).  ISO is the little bits of grain in an image and goes back to the film shooting days.  Film is purchased by the ISO (also referred to as ASA) rating.  A rating of around 800 or 1600 was usually for indoors whereas you’d use 200 or 400 for outdoors.  You can set the ISO in your camera and it serves as a cushion when you don’t want your shutter speed to be slower or your aperture to be any more open.  In return, it introduces more and more grain as the number getting higher (and digital cameras can go high!) Here is a post from Click It Up A Notch demonstrating ISO even more.

Minimal Noise (cooresponds with Low ISO)

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Lots of Noise (cooresponds with High ISO)

So now that we know what everything IS… how can we use ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed to create an image? These three are called “The Exposure Triangle“.  All of them have to work together to create an image in your camera.  Cameras have a lot of bells and whistles – but really it all comes down to these three things and how they work together.

So let’s talk about your camera modes, now (don’t confuse these with “Manual and Auto” on your lens – keep that one Auto, especially for now!).

MAIN CAMERA MODES:

Automatic (could be a green square… or “Auto” on cameras)
PROS: Automatic mode chooses everything for you – the ISO, the Aperture, the Shutter Speed.  It surveys the scene and makes it’s best guess.  You are able to set it and forget it.
CONS:   This can leave you frustrated because your control is minimal.

Aperture Priority (also called Av & A on cameras)
PROS: Aperture Priority allows you to choose your Aperture setting keeping control over how much blur behind your subject exists.  The camera will choose your ISO and Shutter Speed.  This is great when you want a blurry background (apertures like f/1.8, f/2.8) or you choose to have everything in sharp focus (apertures such as f/11).
CONS: You aren’t controlling your shutter speed and can often end up with blurry images because your shutter speed is too slow.

Shutter Priority (also called Tv & S on cameras)
PROS: Shutter Priority allows you to choose the Shutter Speed.  The camera will choose your ISO and Aperture.  This is great for sports or freezing motion.
CONS: The camera may give you a very high ISO or an aperture that isn’t quite what you would have chosen.

Manual (also called M on cameras)
PROS: Manual allows you to choose the Shutter Speed, the ISO, and the Aperture so you have complete control over your image and making it just as you want it.
CONS: You have to understand how everything works together and be able to switch things up quickly, sometimes.

So you know what the terms mean, you know what the modes mean.  How do you put them into action? Read your camera manual to learn how to change your ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.  You can often even set-up special buttons to allow you to do it faster than going into your menu, too.

I shoot in manual mode – all the time, though I suggest starting in Aperture Priority.  This will help you to assess how the other settings change when you change your aperture.  I can honestly say that I haven’t ever worked in Shutter Priority – but my kids aren’t in sports yet and I usually shoot when they aren’t moving and running around so I’ve never really needed it.  I jumped in head first back in 2009 and went straight to manual mode while learning the concepts.  My first few pictures were black. Totally black.  I had no idea how to make them not black.  I’m going to cover shooting in Manual in another post, however.  Here is a hint if you want to get started on shooting in manual. When you looking into your viewfinder, you will see some dashes. That’s your meter. Your goal is for your meter to be in the center.  Again, more on that in the next post.

I learned how to achieve proper exposure and how to understand how ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed work together by reading the book, “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson.  It’s an amazing first step and he explains everything with images, shares settings and I found it to be so comprehensive.

Need more and want to be held accountable? Try Amy Lucy Lockheart’s 3 week workshop, “First Steps With A DSLR“.  I am slightly biased because Amy was and is my own mentor.  Her work is gorgeous and she is a wonderful teacher. If you haven’t taken a workshop with Clickin Moms before, I highly recommend them because they are thorough, you get regular feedback and you work with a group of women learning the same thing as you.  You certainly can learn on your own, but man, if you can swing it… I learned so much faster with a dedicated teacher.

Tomorrow, my first workshop opens!

Tomorrow my mini-workshop (also called a ‘Breakout Session’) titled “Simplicity: Planning and Preparing to Find YOUR Simple” opens and I’d like to take some time to answer some questions and tell you more about it!

What’s a Breakout Session?
A breakout is a mini-online workshop offered through Clickin Moms, a wonderful forum that offers so much more than just a forum (classes, mentoring, photography tutorials, and even a magazine called Click!).  Clickinmoms, even though the name adds in “moms” is not only for moms – everyone is welcome to join.  They are a very supportive and friendly community and a great place to learn about photography.

How do I join a live Breakout Session?
To join: Clickin Moms members can sign up HERE  and Non-Members can sign up HERE  (scroll down and choose “Simplicity”)

To access the Breakout click on “Forums” at the top and scroll to the end of the forum list and you will see “Simplicity” under the workshops section.  Click. . . and you are in!  Download all  of the materials ASAP (everything is there except for the Q&A which will be recorded later in the week and added).

How long will the Breakout Session be available on the forum for?
The breakout session will be available for about 1 week.  After that time materials will no longer be available for download.  Next month, Simplicity will be available for purchase download from the Clickinmoms store but there will no longer be a forum for the class.

What is your Breakout, Simplicity, about?
Simplicity will help people that have already begun shooting.  It’s geared toward intermediate shooters and discusses less about the camera settings more about the hows/whys of shooting and making things easier when running a session.

Some topics covered are:

  • Finding Inspiration
  • Journaling
  • Your Personal Style and Meshing it with Your Photography Work
  • Finding Locations
  • Clients Homes – Tips and Tricks
  • Shooting Your Own Children Successfully
  • Shooting Families & Newborns

What is included?

  • A 57 page PDF written by me
  • 2 editing videos (Lightroom 3 and one in Photoshop CS5)
  • Templates for Birth Announcements & A Storyboard
  • Q&A video (not yet recorded)

What’s the cost?
$25 if you purchase while the breakout is live and $30 if you wait until it hits the store!

I hope to see you in the forum!

Have some more questions?  Answer in the comments or email me at [email protected]