Silhouettes

Lately, I’ve been into capturing silhouettes. I find them so interesting to look at, especially if they can tell a story without even being able to see the person’s (or animal’s) face. I think I’m drawn to them because they have an air of mystery, and they feel candid and serene. I like that.

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My top tip for capturing them would be to really pay attention to the background, and make sure that the person’s profile is framed by something light enough, or is lit up by enough light, to make the profile stand out. For example, if your subject is in front of a window, move your camera until her entire head falls within the backlight of the window.

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I also like capturing silhouettes in ways that aren’t so obvious, such as the photo below, of my daughter in a grassy field.

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I like to do them in black and white. That’s definitely not a requirement, and I’ve seen some gorgeous ones captured in front of colorful sunsets, I just like the classic look that black and white gives them. Black and white also makes the light the focus of the photo, which is cool in photos where just the profile is illuminated by light.

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Here are a few more that I’ve shared here before, but love:

In this one, I moved until I got her entire head framed by the window light:

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I did the same with this photo– moved until her body was nicely framed by the window light:

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I noticed the sun gave interesting backlight here, and that my husband’s face was a nice silhouette against the light sky, and my daughter’s face was nicely lit by light.

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Same thing here, I noticed the sun gave my daughter’s profile an interesting and beautiful glow:IMG_5737

I saw this deer, and moved my camera down, until the light sky was perfectly behind it:IMG_9757

My favorites are the ones that wouldn’t be considered traditional silhouettes. I think it’s fun to explore the boundaries and find interesting ways to capture them.

All photos were taken and edited with my iPhone 6, as usual

 

A Journey through Darkness into Moments of Bliss

Warning, very personal post.

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Over the past 4 years, I’ve gone through some very difficult struggles. Pregnancy doesn’t agree with me, and makes me horribly ill for the entire duration of the 270 days. So ill, that commercials with food made me cry and vomit. So ill that hearing the word “hotdog” sent me into a tailspin of vomiting. So ill that just moving an inch could make me vomit. So ill, I had to be medicated with Zofran, and I still felt like death. So ill that I cried at the very thought of riding in a car. So ill, I dreaded every single day. So ill, that in my darkest moments, I wished away the very pregnancies I prayed desperately for. When you are lying on the bathroom floor, heaving your guts out, just praying for a moment without feeling ill, for 270 days straight, you think dark things. I did this twice, within 22 months.

On top of that, my first child had colic. Terrible, unabating, screeching non-stop, for 6 months. I was reeling. I didn’t know what to do. I had suffered so deeply to bring her here, and she hated me. I withdrew from everyone except my daughter, who I held, bounced, swung, walked, rocked, pleaded with, and cried with, night and day. I somehow bonded deeply to her, even through what was later diagnosed as postpartum depression. I tried to see the beauty in motherhood. I LOVED her with my very soul. But, it was so hard. It seemed harder than it should have been, and I didn’t know why. I thought the problem was me. I wasn’t cut out for this motherhood business.

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I lashed out at everyone. I felt everyone had failed me. I needed support, why couldn’t they tell? My husband and I struggled so deeply, I truly feared our marriage wouldn’t survive.

Our daughter ended up unable to nurse well. She hit, flailed, arched, screamed, and bit me, every. single. time. I nursed her. I thought it was my fault. I felt deeper failure. I just couldn’t do any of this right. One day, when she was 5 months old, she refused to nurse at all. I was terrified–my baby was starving and wouldn’t accept nourishment. I began to research, and came across information about tongue tie. I cried and cried. I knew this was what was going on. I told my family–they told me I was crazy. What didn’t help is that they didn’t know I already felt crazy.

It turns out, I was right. We got my daughter diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie and an upper lip tie, took her to have it surgically fixed, and things calmed way down. I started to feel better. She was happy; we began to be happy again. Then, when our first daughter was 13 months old, I got pregnant again.

I was so hopeful I’d feel better this time, that the sickness would skip me. Surely it wouldn’t be fair to have to go through that twice. My mental state had just begun to come out of the fog, and I was so excited we were going to add to our family. The day I hit 6 weeks pregnant, the vomiting returned.

This time, it was worse. I had no idea how it could even possibly be worse than the first time, but it was. I had to get an IV because I was so dehydrated. I couldn’t stop vomiting and my husband was terrified. I was on Zofran again. I still felt horrible, and this time I couldn’t sleep to escape it, I had a 1 year old to take care of. If I had thought the times the first time around were dark, they were nothing compared to the second pregnancy.

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I managed to gain 18 pounds my entire second pregnancy, and began to lose again at the end. I begged my OB for an induction. She obliged. I ended up having pre-eclampsia in labor, hemorrhaging, and clotting. It was a terrifying ordeal, and my mother, who was in the room during delivery, still cries if I bring it up. She was afraid she was going to lose me.

Postpartum the second time, I was determined to get it right. I knew what to watch for with PPD, I knew the misery of pregnancy was behind me. I thought I could set my mind to skipping the darkness this time. I was wrong.

The second baby was calm at first. I thought “YES! This is how it’s supposed to be!” Then, she started screaming 3-4 hours straight every single night. No matter what I did. No matter how I rocked, bounced, swayed. The things that had worked with our first daughter did nothing. This went on for most of her first year of life.

I also struggled to bond with her. I tried, but I just didn’t have that same cosmic pull that I had had to my first daughter. There were times I wanted to leave. She would scream, my oldest would join in, and I wanted to walk out of the front door, and into a truck. I truly felt like I couldn’t handle my life. I knew how lucky I was to have a supportive and present husband, 2 beautiful and healthy daughters, a beautiful home, security, comfort. I knew all of these things, but it didn’t change how I felt. It also didn’t help when well-meaning people reminded me of these things.

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The depression took ahold of me this time. It was so profound I thought I wouldn’t survive it. Waking up in the morning, I felt such a heaviness. Such a despair. It was a monumental feat to get out of bed. Brushing my teeth felt exhausting. Many days,  I barely brought myself to do so. The pressure of caring for 2 high-needs babies was just too much for me. I had many terrifying suicidal thoughts. Some days, I couldn’t walk into the kitchen and be near knives. I told this to no one, besides my husband, who was grasping at straws trying to protect my confidence, and hold our family together. He is a rock.

Making matters worse, I was angry. Sometimes depression does that. And when you lash out at people you love, they rarely are able to have the empathy for you that you deeply need. I felt so alone, but also guilty because I had done it to myself. I felt unworthy of love. Unable to love. Why go on?

The most confusing part in all this, is some days wouldn’t be so bad. Occasionally, I’d wake up and feel pretty good. I’d have energy, I’d feel some dulled happiness. I’d take the girls and go do something fun. I’d do my hair and makeup and feel pretty. I had plenty of honest moments of love and happiness with my babies, even during the darkness. I’d think, “I’m beating this! It’s going to get better!” I even sold my beloved business that I had built myself, to try and protect my sleep, knowing that sleep hugely affects mood. I put myself in therapy. I tried so hard to see the good in my life. To bring myself all the way out of it. But, I just couldn’t fix myself. There was nothing wrong with my life, yet many days, I didn’t want it.

Finally, I knew I had to get real help. I started a temporary medication. I continued with therapy. It’s incredibly humiliating to admit that, but it shouldn’t be. Postpartum depression is chemical. It’s a brain thing. Those who suffer, suffer more, because they feel they can’t admit that pregnancy has not only ravaged their bodies, but their minds as well.

I began to take photos of my kids. It allowed me to see them, and my life, through an outsider’s perspective. To see the beauty in my life with them. It allowed me to be creative and feel a renewed sense of my purpose. It allowed me to learn something new, and practice a new art. Photography has helped save me.

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I began to fall deeply, and madly in love with my second baby. Just all at once it hit me that I had an entire new heart, just for her. My girls began to bond. They giggled together, and I found myself giggling along with them. I started to feel a lightness I didn’t know was possible. I could get up in the morning without wishing the day was over. I started to feel hope. My husband and I connected.

It’s been such a long road, and none of this was immediate, rather it happened in small bursts over the past year. I have felt great for a while now, but lately I’ve noticed these moments of the deepest bliss I’ve ever felt. They’ve taken me by complete surprise, and taken my breath away. I truly had no idea how badly I had gotten, until I got better, and then even better. I had no idea so much true happiness was in store, and someday I wouldn’t have to fake it anymore.

I have no idea why I’m sharing this. Maybe just pure catharsis. Maybe to remember to have empathy for when my loved ones may face the same, so they’ll know I’m a safe place. I am well-aware that many may see this as a repugnant overshare. However, if I can reach one mom, who is struggling as I did, and help her know that there is happiness on the other side, it’s worth it to lay my own soul bare.

In the end, isn’t that what we’re here for? To hold each other up?

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Capturing Sun Flares

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I have an obsession with capturing sun flares. I’m sure that breaks some sort of photography “rule,” but I don’t really care because I think they are so beautiful! People are always astounded I don’t add them in, in post processing of my image. I don’t understand that, because I find them relatively easy to capture. All I do is:

1) Find a place the sun is peeking through: Behind a tree, over a fence, or through the holes in a fence, over the roof, any place. Late afternoon/ sunset is the easiest time to do this.

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2) Tip your camera upward until you can see the flare on your screen, and snap!

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3) Don’t over-edit the final image– it will make the sun flare look fake. Sharpen just a touch to enhance each ray of the sun flare, and use a pretty filter. Stop there. (Changing the image to black and white can also make a sun flare pop in a gorgeous way.)

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4) Optional: Remove lens flare orbs. I don’t like the distracting green orbs that sometimes end up in the middle of my photos with lots of sun flare, so I’ll quickly edit them out, using something like TouchRetouch.

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5) Another thing to think about is that you want the sun to add a striking look to the image, but you don’t want it to overpower the image completely. I make sure that the sun highlights the subject. This is why in most of the images where I include sun flares, they are off to the side, or even half out of the photo: They aren’t the center of attention.

That’s it! Pretty easy, interesting to look at, and so beautiful.

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San Francisco in Photos

San Francisco wasn’t all work, there was a lot of fun, too. Here are just a few of my iPhone 6 shots, from eating (drinking) and laughing our way through WWDC.

I had an aisle seat both ways, but managed to get a couple of cool, cliche plane window shots:

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We kind of lived at Blue Bottle Coffee:

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There was plenty of silliness:

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This isn’t even a great photo, except if you notice, Kyle is dragging a screen. It accompanied him many a place that evening.

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Samovar has the best chai tea ever. And the food is worth sitting in sprinkling rain for. (Pro tip: make a reservation.)

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Ben brought out his signature suspenders for the Martiancraft party.

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This isn’t from SF, but Martiancraft provided the coolest bags for the WWDC Girls event, and we got to take some home to our girls.

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We really did have such a great time, seeing old friends, meeting new. I hope we get to go back next year!

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Apple Store Event

I had the absolute honor of hosting an event, and presenting about my iPhone 6 photography, at the Apple Store in San Francisco this past Wednesday. It was such a great feeling to tell some of the stories behind my photos, and share some tips about how to capture special moments. The Apple employees I worked with were the most kind and fantastic people. I also felt so much love from both old and new friends, and my husband Ben, who came to the event to support me. It was just such a joy all around.

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In case you couldn’t be there, or were and want to be reminded of these, here are a few of my top tips from what I shared:

1) Editing is like makeup for a photo. In order to have a stellar one post editing, it needs to be a great image to start with. Focus most of your attention on taking a great image. (My favorite editing apps are listed here.)

2) The forward-facing camera will give you a lesser-quality, lower resolution image. Try to use it infrequently.

3) Don’t worry so much about the “rules” of photography. Focus instead on the moment and telling the story.

4) Pay attention to the light and seek interesting light.

5) Take lots of photos and don’t be afraid to try new things.

6) The image is for you. No one has to love it, but you.

 

Thanks so much to those who came, and I hope these tips are helpful!

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How to Capture iPhone Photos of Wiggly Kids

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I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old. They are not the easiest subjects when it comes to photography, but they’re who I want to capture the most. So, I’ve developed a few tricks to get some great shots of them, and their cute friends.

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1) Be patient before you snap. I know it’s really hard to wait for a second, when you’re trying to capture a magic moment in the life of a wiggly child, but if your iPhone camera doesn’t have a chance to focus, the photo just won’t be that great anyway.

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2) Take a few shots. I typically take 5 or so shots to try and capture at least 1 good one. I don’t like using burst, because it gives me TOO many of close to the same image, but I do think a few options are good to have.

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3) Make sure the lighting is good (outside, near a window). It’s just easier to capture an in-focus image in good lighting.

4) Bribery. It does work…sometimes.

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5) Make them laugh. Make silly faces. Tell jokes. Get on the floor with them (bonus is the angle is great). Play and giggle. Snap a few photos and chances are you’ll get one or two that are fantastically joyful.

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6) Sneak up on them, and turn your camera shutter sound off. Don’t let them see you snapping away. Candid shots are some of the best anyway.

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7) Use a timer. Just set the phone up to take a shot, and go play. They’ll forget the camera is there, and you’ll also get to be in on the fun.

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8) Take them somewhere new. They’ll be so interested in exploring new surroundings, they may not notice as you try and photograph the wonder in their eyes.

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9) When editing, use a sharpening tool…sparingly. Use it, but don’t overuse it. It’s a great tool to sharpen up an image just a bit, but it’s not going to save an out-of-focus image, and it’s going to look over-processed and kind of weird, if you try.

10) Most importantly, try to capture them. Don’t focus on capturing the “perfect” image, capture one that tells the viewer who the subject is, or how she feels in a moment.

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You’ll still get a lot of outtakes. Sometimes they’re out of focus, or your child made a silly face or ran away just as you snapped, but they’re still awesome images that tell the story of the moment. If you love it, keep it anyway. Sometimes movement in a shot gives it much more visual interest and tells a better story. You don’t have to follow all the “rules” to get a great shot of your kid.

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Visualize a Photo Before You Snap

I do this thing sometimes, where I see a photo before I take it. Usually I see it as a black and white image, because I’m focused on the beautiful or interesting light that’s caught my attention. Black and white makes light stand out, where color doesn’t compete for attention. Light play in black and white is so dynamic, so I’m always chasing the light.

For this image, I was at a mommy and me ballet class with my 3 year old daughter, and I noticed the way the morning light streamed in through the windows and glared on the shiny dance floor. Instantly, I wanted a photo. Yes, I was that mom: I grabbed my iPhone, and started snapping. I knew I’d have to do some cropping, because I wasn’t going to ask the people in the background to move. I knew it was going to be black and white, because of the interesting light pattern on the floor, and I knew her tutu would also look so lovely in black and white.

So, this is what I started with, and it’s not anything special.

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Usually, I try and frame my images as I would want them in a final version, to minimize cropping, because cropping too much deteriorates the image quality. But, in this circumstance I had to snap quickly, so I did the best I could to capture the windows, floor, and my girl within the frame, knowing I could clean it up later.

Then, I used BLACK App to change it to black and white. (I am in LOVE with BLACK and wrote about it previously.)

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I decided it was still too “messy” as-is. I love the windows, but I wanted the focus on the little tutu-clad girl, tugging at her ballet shoe, with the light dancing on the floor behind her, and the people, barre, bags, and tutus on the floor behind her were bugging me. I was also distracted by the piece of tape behind her, to the left, so I used TouchRetouch to remove it. Next, I cropped the photo in the most interesting way I could, while keeping the glare and the subject completely within the frame, yet cropping as little as possible to do so, getting the people and stuff in the background out, and keeping the ratio of the image close to the same.

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And there you have it, the story behind one of my favorite photos, of one of my very favorite girls.

I’m Hosting an Apple Event

Whaaaaat‽ It’s true! I’m hosting an Apple Event next week in San Francisco, at the Apple Store, about how to find the light, capture great photos, and edit them, using only your iPhone camera and iPhone apps. If you’re in the area–come by! You can register here.

A Shoot with a Friend, and a New App

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I happen to have a gorgeous, dear friend, who is expecting her third baby girl.  I thought it would be fun to give her a couple of beautiful photos to remember this special time, and I also wanted to practice taking photos I knew I’d edit in color, since I tend to gravitate towards black and white.

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So, I asked my friend to come over, cut some flowers from my yard and made a flower crown, grabbed my iPhone, and we went to a nearby park to play in the sunshine.

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The tall grass in the golden sunshine was my favorite, and I would have made my friend stand in it to take about 100 more photos, but her allergies started acting up and I couldn’t, in good conscience, make my pregnant friend sneeze all evening.

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When I got home, I spent some time gently processing my favorite photos from the park with my favorite color photo editor, Litely. I liked the way most of them looked at that point, but some of them seemed to be missing something, and my tilt focus tools from various apps weren’t giving me the look I wanted.

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So, I googled and found an app called After Focus, and used it to add just an extra-special touch to some of the photos.

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After Focus is really cool, because it does what it sounds like it would: it gives your phone photos an SLR look, after they’ve already been taken. It’s not the easiest tool to use and get perfect, because you draw the areas you’d like to remain in focus with your big finger, on a small iPhone screen. I’m betting a small stylus could help.

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One thing I found frustrating, and it could be user error since it’s a brand-new app to me, is that I’d zoom in and be doing fine detail work, and it would keep zooming out on its own. It’s also really time-consuming, so obviously it would be better to just use a real SLR camera, than plan on editing a ton of photos this way after taking them.

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The app offers some additional tools: things like filters and a sharpening tool, but I prefer other apps for those functions. Even so, the one use I have for it is worth it, and it’s a good app to add to my iphoneography arsenal.

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Thanks to my sweet friend Heather, for being such good sport, and a lovely subject!