The Heat's On

Yup, the furnace is officially on.  I may have to break out the socks tomorrow given that it's supposed to be a high of 10 degrees.  And wear a jacket.  This sucks.

B&W photography

 
You may have noticed that my black and white photos all look different (compare the above to these ones from earlier this week).  I've been playing around with different tones and levels of contrast, as well as different conversion processes (e.g. channel mixer, gradient map) trying to find a look that I love. It's much more difficult than I thought!  Oh, and there's the issue of being consistent across photographs.  Sheesh.  It would be so easy just to run a Photoshop action and have it all be done with!  The reason I'm not is that I want to learn how to do it myself so that I have an understanding of what's going on in the conversion process.  I DO love me some actions, though!

Don't know what a Photoshop action is?  Read about them here.  Here's a link to a freebie for ya from Amy McMaster Photography (you're welcome!)  Check out her awesome blog and GORGEOUS photography!

Fionn

A couple of weeks ago I met the cutest dog ever - Fionn.  My BFF is dog-sitting him and he's like a giant mop.  But much more cuddly and adorable.  Here he is napping under a set of bar stools.  LOVE!

Nap Time

Before having a baby, no one told me that many babies don't nap well in their crib until they're older.  When I say "nap well" I mean longer than 30 minutes.  Oh yes, the first month was great - he could sleep for hours anywhere, from the car seat to a stranger's arms.  Then the second month hit and the only place he wanted to sleep during the day was in someone's arms (but he slept fine in his crib at night, go figure - I've learned since that day and night sleep are controlled by different parts of the brain, with day sleep maturing much later).  It got to the point I had husband and my dad sign up for nap shifts so that I could get a break.  Anyway, at around the fifth month baby started taking longer naps in his crib.  The first time he napped in his crib for over an hour I cried.  Seriously.  Do I miss holding him for hours at a time?  Yes.  But I'm enjoying all the time I now have to myself much more!

Update: Kobo FAIL

Husband bought me the Kobo yesterday after seeing my post.  He is just too sweet.  Unfortunately, after playing around with it for two hours last night, it is going back to the store today.  The darn thing is just.  too.  slow.  Also, the screen sensitivity is clunky - it took me about a minute to highlight 5 words accurately.  Ridiculous.

Where does that leave us?  Well, we're looking into the Kindle now.  It has gotten really great reviews on the web.  We're also considering the iPad (since we were waiting until the holidays to pick one up anyway).  The only thing I'm unsure of with the iPad as a reader is if it gets hot on your lap while reading.  That would annoy me.  A lot.

Anyone have suggestions for us?

Dear Baby: Happy 9 Months

Dear Baby,

You are 9 months old today!  I can't believe how quickly time is passing.  Each day you discover something new about the world and it's so exciting to watch as the wheels turn in your head.  This last month you mastered crawling and learned how to pull yourself up to a kneeling and standing position. Today you learned that some books have cool textures in them that you can touch and feel.   You were really fascinated!

Meal times have been getting a bit tough as you're learning what you like and dislike.  Your current favourite foods are yogurt, cheddar cheese, and grapes.  You don't like pureed foods anymore and prefer to eat large chunks of what everyone else is eating.  I'm amazed that you can chew with only 6 front teeth. 

Your favourite things to do right now are take baths, chase the dog around, play with pots and spoons, and stick everything in your mouth.  Oh, and of course I can't forget to mention your favourite toy in the whole world: Mr. Magenta.  He's almost always in your mouth!

I'm so thankful to have such a wonderful little guy in my life.  You are my sunshine and I can't wait to see what the next month will bring us!

Lots of love and kisses,
Mommy


eBook Readers

For the past few months, I've been reading a lot of books and magazines on my laptop.  Why?  Partly because I'm too lazy to go to the store and browse for books and partly because e-books are SO MUCH CHEAPER.  If there's a hardcover that I want to read and keep on my shelves to reread or display, I'll order it online.  However, many times the texts I'm reading (e.g. software guides, photography manuals, magazines) are single reads.

This brings me to the e-readers.  I hadn't even considered getting one until I had a conversation with my cousin this past weekend.  He told me that e-readers like the Kobo Touch are like digital paper - they are not back lit and require a light source in order to see the screen (I know I'm probably the only person who didn't know this).  This makes them less tiring on the eyes than a conventional screen.  Digital paper?  I could not picture what such a thing looked like!  So of course I went to the local Chapters store today to check it out.  Hello - the Kobo Touch is SO CUTE.  And the digital paper thing is really cool.  So cool that I want one. 

Not wanting to buy on impulse, I left the store empty handed (...okay, I bought some books for baby but that doesn't count).  I need to learn more about this e-reader stuff.  What are my other options other than the Kobo Touch (remember, I'm in Canada, the land of limited options)?  No, I don't want an iPad.  I mean, I DO want an iPad, but not for reading books.  So I'll give myself a week to chat up people and research and then I'll take the plunge!  I'll let you know what I end up with!

UPDATE:  My husband read my post and bought one for me on his lunch break.  He surprised me with it when I went to pick him up from work this evening.  He is the sweetest and most thoughtful husband ever.   Love that guy. 

Purple Should Look Purple

As I try to improve my photography, I've come to realize that it is going to be a lifelong learning process.  There are so many things that I still need to learn and even more that I want to learn.


Right now I'm trying to get my color balancing consistent.  I currently use a monitor calibration tool (X-Rite's Eye One Display 2) and have just ordered a set of white balance cards.  The calibration tool is to help me see images as they should appear and to get more accurate prints (i.e. if it looks purple on the screen it should come out the same shade of purple when I print).  It's by no means perfect but it's good enough for me right now.  If you want to do a basic calibration on your own computer, most come with a simple color calibration program (Mac: System Preferences->Display->Color, PC: right-click on desktop->Properties->Display).  Before you do it, check out this Flickr page titled Calibrate your monitor correctly! If you have no idea what I've been going on about in this paragraph, that page will help you out.


As for the white balance cards, they help in making sure my whites are truly white - once the whites are accurate, all the other colors tend to fall into place (note: there are many other ways to white balance your photo - this is just the one I like).  To use them, you just place them in your scene and take a photo of them.  Then remove them and continue shooting your scene as usual.  When you upload your photos to your post-processing software (e.g. Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, etc.) you use the white balance clickers to click on the white and all the whites along with the rest of the image will be "white balanced".  Totally confused?  (I would be)  Here's a video showing you what I mean!  For the moms out there, I understand that carrying around these cards and setting them up is pretty much impossible when you have a baby/toddler(s) around.  That's when you have to learn about the other methods!  I'll describe those in a future post!

dSLR or Point and Shoot?

I didn't know that I wanted a dSLR until I got one.  Then I wondered what I ever did without it!  Yes, it's a heavy sucker and all the gear and accessories for it come with hefty price tags, but I'm willing to shell out the money (and make wishlists for gifts) because I LOVE all the freedom and creativity it allows me.

Don't get me wrong, though, I'm NOT a one-camera woman (sorry 5D).  I'm pretty sure that most dSLR owners also have a secondary camera, usually a good quality point-and-shoot or even a second dSLR.  Now with the micro four-thirds cameras coming out, I'm sure many hobbyists (and professionals?) are grabbing those as well.  My dad has already purchased two of them (he's a camera junkie!) and I must say they are REALLY COOL.  Small camera?  Check.  Interchangeable lenses?  Check.  Ease of use?  Check.  So cool.

So if you're unsure if you're a dSLR or point-and-shoot person, I would recommend looking over this article as it addresses the question:  "Should you buy a dSLR or point and shoot camera?" quite thoroughly.  Happy reading!

Weekend Highlights

Baby spent a lot of time with grandparents and family this weekend and throughout all the visits he had his trusty BFF, Mr. Magenta, by his side in his mouth.


Andy Warhol and Winners

Winners is one of my favourite places to shop and I have a specific order of shopping when I go:  first is shoes, then purses, then home stuff, then clothing, then stationary, and then baby stuff.  Sometimes baby stuff is first (I just can't help buying him stuff).  When I went this week, I found the most ADORABLE little note cards by the Andy Warhol Foundation.  I have no idea when I'll use them (who uses note cards when you've got Facebook?) but they look SO CUTE sitting on my desk!


I also discovered that one location of Winners (Highway 7 and Woodbine) carries a large selection of REALLY CUTE sleep sacks for baby. They had a variety of brands and plenty of ones appropriate for fall and winter. This was AFTER I had bought an organic 2.5 tog Gro-Bag the week before (and washed it so I can't return it) for $70. Yes, Gro-Bags are awesome but I could've bought 3 at Winners for the price of a Gro-Bag. Oh well. Lesson learned.

eBook Review: Click! How to take gorgeous photos of your kids

I've been following Rachel Devine's blog for a while now and was very excited to hear that she was coming out with a new ebook.  I was especially interested in reading about her favorite tips and tricks for photographing children.  In case you've never visited her website or blog, her photographs of children are STUNNING.  To me, her overall body of work is truly inspirational and I would LOVE to be able to create photographs like she does.

I purchased Click! How to take gorgeous photos of your kids the day it was released and finished reading it in two days.  It was such an easy read and all of her personal anecdotes made me think:  she's a mom and if she can do it, so can I!  The book has seven main chapters:

~Think: how to make every shot count
~Prepare: the right gear to get you started
~Smile: tips & tricks on working with kids
~Refine: post-production, editing and equipment
~Research: seek new inspiration & styles
~Push: photo setups you can try to help push your own boundaries
~Look: case studies-interviews & photos

While it doesn't go into too many technical details, it does assume that the reader has a good general knowledge of their digital camera.  Both experienced and beginning photographers can find something useful in each chapter.  My favorite part of the ebook was the section at the end of each chapter that asked a couple of questions that challenged you to think about your own photography in relation to the chapter's topic.  Because I'm trying to figure out my personal style, the questions really helped me reflect on what I'm all about.  The first chapter helped me identify some key words that I hope will come to describe my photography one day:  whimsical, bright, modern, unique, authentic, joyful, fresh, clean.  I also loved EVERYTHING in the Smile chapter.  It's filled with ideas on how to work with kids of all ages and temperaments.  One of my favorite ideas from the ebook is using "lens ornaments" (e.g. blu-tacking a small toy to sit on your lens) to get young kids to look into the camera.  Brilliant!

I would highly recommend this ebook to anyone interested in children's photography, especially moms who have dSLRs and are looking to improve their photos of their kids.  The great thing is you don't even have to leave your house to get it!  You can find ordering information for the ebook on the Digital Photography School website.  If you want to see what this lady is all about, check out her amazing photography on both her website and her blog.  Happy reading!

Creepy

This is what greeted me as I opened the blinds in baby's room this morning:

I'm so glad it was on the OUTSIDE!  What is it - a queen mosquito?  *shiver*

It's Official

Today is the first day of fall.  It's a terrible, rainy, windy, grey, cold day.  I spent some time this morning packing away baby's summer clothes.  It was so sad because I know he'll never wear these clothes again (oh, those first little flip flops!)  On the bright side, I think I'll really enjoy dressing him in fall layers shopping for fall clothing!

Gee, can you tell these are boy clothes?!

The Kitchen Toy Store

Baby discovered Ziploc and Tupperware containers today.  He chewed, banged, and threw them around and had the best time.  Tomorrow we'll try colanders and spoons.  The kitchen is the best toy store EVER!

The Designer Cookie

I just found a new favourite cupcake boutique: The Designer Cookie located on Eglinton Avenue East just south of Avenue Road in Toronto.  I haven't tasted butter cream this creamy and flavourful in a long time.  The cake was moist and light,  and the FILLINGS!  Scrumptious!  While I chatted with the saleslady she told me that they specialize in customizing their goodies - you can design your own cookie or cupcake and they'll bake it for you right away.  Amazing!  They can also customize with photos and text - I'm definitely going to consider using them for baby's first birthday party!

The box didn't stay closed for long!
A new favourite: bottom left - apple cinnamon cupcake with a caramel filling
Yes, that is caramalized creme brulee on top with a caramel center. 

Oh No You Didn't

Baby goes crazy for bath time and loves to splash around and play with his toys.  Mr. Magenta is his FAVOURITE toy right now and it's pretty much permanently attached to his mouth.  During today's bath, I was taking some photos when I saw THE FACE.  You know - the scrunchy, red, squinty face that happens when one is trying to push out a poop (c'mon, you know you do it, too, sometimes!).  Before I knew it his poopies were floating everywhere in the bathtub.  Eeeeeewwwww!

Weekend frolicking

I love weekends and all the activities that come with them.  But I also love those quiet Sunday afternoons where everyone in the family ends up falling asleep somewhere (me in bed, husband on couch, baby in crib, dog on mat) at around 3pm.  Ahhhh...Sunday naps.  I also love this sweater that grandmother knit for baby.  Today, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  We found a small grove of trees on our walk and took some pictures.  Such loveliness.  And check out those hippo teeth!



Just Do It

It took me 8 months to finally get back into a regular workout routine and BOY did I feel those 8 months dragging me down! To illustrate what I mean here's a comparison: pre-baby I was squatting 50 pounds plus the 55 pound olympic bar (making 105 pounds) and doing 3 sets of 10-12 reps. 3 weeks ago I started to ease back into it by squatting light using two 5-pound weights and a yoga ball behind my back against the wall. You should have seen my legs wobbling up and down. That was pretty much how the rest of the workout was - wobbly, creaky, and sweaty. Is this what I have to look forward to in old age? I could barely walk down the stairs to the change room afterwards!

...BUT....

Despite all that, I DID feel AMAZING. It was like my body was telling me "Now THAT'S what I want! More! More!". It felt grrrrreat. To all of you moms who are still on the fence about starting a workout routine again, just DO IT. Even if it's a 20 minute brisk walk. It'll feel SOOOOOOOO good. 3 weeks later and my body is really "remembering" all the movements and I'm slowly gaining back the strength I lost. No more wobbly legs here. Still sweating lots, though!

Brrrr

I had to turn the heat on in the car this morning as I drove husband to work :(  Fall has definitely arrived Fall is almost here but I REFUSE to wear socks until I see frost on the windshield!  I'm hanging on to those last little bits of summer...this was one of my favourite days:

Do You Like It Noisy?

When taking a photo, it is usually a good idea to select the lowest ISO setting as possible in order to minimize the amount of noise in your photograph.  "Noise" is that grainy, speckly effect you see sometimes in photos taken in darker conditions.  So, if you're shooting outdoors on a bright day, an ISO of 100 (or lower if your camera allows) would be appropriate in most cases.  In contrast, if you're shooting in a darker room or at night, you'll need to bump up the ISO so that your photo doesn't end up really dark.  Now, I usually follow this rule but in this photo I forgot to change my ISO from the night before (it was set at 1600 - pretty high!).  I kind of like the graininess in the photo.  It gives it a sort of hazy, vintage feel.  What do you think?

Fabulous Fonts

I'm a bit obsessed with fonts.  It probably took me over 30 different tests to get the font on my blog title looking just right.  And I'm still not sure I LOVE it.  But I definitely like it.  I could spend all day on fontspace downloading fonts and trying them.  Check them out (they're FREE!)  Don't say I didn't warn you!

My current faves (clicking on the font will take you to the download page!):










Motherhood=Zombieland

Okay.  So I was advised before having baby to get all the sleep I can get now because I'll never sleep well again.  My response was "Okay, thanks" while I thought "Okay, whatever, I like my late nights and I'll deal with it when it comes up."  Fast forward to last night: baby was up three times - 10pm, 1am, 4am, then got up for the day at 7am.  But the kicker is I had to go the washroom twice last night - 12am, 3am.  That makes FIVE WAKE-UPS for me.  O.    M.   G.   I feel like the walking dead today.

That Door Thingy

This is baby's new favourite toy. What is it? You know, it's that thingy behind some doors that makes the fart sound when you hit it. Fart. Tee hee.

Creamy Backgrounds

Some of my friends have asked me how I get my backgrounds so creamy and blurred when I take pictures of baby.  It's all about shooting wide open with my lens - I select the widest aperture (narrowest depth of field) possible while still making sure my subject is sharp.  Below is a great video explaining this.  My go-to lens is my 50mm/1.2, and when I shoot with it I'm almost always set at anywhere between 1.2 and 2.0, depending on how much detail I'd like around my subject.  Does that make sense?  ...I'll post some examples in a later post!  Stay tuned!

The Second Home

People have cottages, we have the Home Depot! It's been like a second home to us ever since we purchased our home five years ago.  I mean, it feels like we're ALWAYS there.  I should really buy some stock in the company!  Here we are checking out faucets for our renovation.  We didn't find any that had the clean and contemporary aesthetic we were looking for.  Looks like we'll have to go to a specialty store and we all know what that means: ridiculous pricing! (let's hope not, though!)

A No-No in Photography?

One of the rules of photography that I learned in school was to avoid putting your subject under a tree that doesn't have a full canopy.  If you do, your subject will be illuminated in spots - some parts shady, some parts light.  Today I was taking baby on a walk when I came across a GORGEOUS speckled pattern on the pathway. I just HAD to photograph baby sitting on it.  Yes, his face and body are unevenly lit, but I kinda like it!  What do you think? 



Crawling

Since baby started crawling 3 weeks ago, this is the view I have most of the time:

Awesome Versus Authentic

Today I spent some time while baby was napping watching Tamara Lackey on CreativeLIVE.  Her work is STUNNING and her business ethic is solid (check out her website here).  She is a totally amazing and inspirational speaker/educator.  When I saw that she was doing a 2-day "Taking Care of Business" workshop on CreativeLIVE I signed up asap.  For those who don't know, CreativeLIVE is a site that streams live workshops (for FREE!) from photographers, web designers, etc. You can also purchase courses in order to re-watch them or watch them at a time more convenient to you.

Some quotes that really stood out for me:

1. Define who YOU are (because YOU comes up a lot).
-what are you drawn to, constantly?
-what makes you go dead inside? what makes your soul shrivel?
-what in you needs to be expressed?
-what have you always wanted to do but haven't?
-what are you really, really good at?
2. Who are you when you are stripped of profession, roles, geography, association?
3. Who are you that you don't change when those things change?
4. I'd much prefer people to be less awesome and more authentic.
5. It's often not your strengths that separate you, it's your quirks.
6. You can't do it all, doing it all will take you down.
7. How could your business change if you had as much passion for business as you have for your art?

Lots to think about.

Household Chores

I really don't like doing chores (who does, really?!)  However, some chores are now more fun because baby likes to get involved in the action.  Our favourite to do together is laundry.  Once the clothes are dry I pile them up all around him and he plays in the mountain of shirts and pants while I fold.  Fun for everyone!

Play Nice With Others

What's the age when children start playing nicely with each other? Clearly it's not at 8 months! Baby's version of "gentle playing" is stuffing his fingers into another baby's mouth, ripping toys out of someone else's hands, pulling hair, and swatting at the face. How fun!

He's much better at playing by himself!

Self-Feeding

Baby's been on solid purees for 3 months already so we've started giving him some little finger foods after each meal to help him develop his pincer grip.  He LOVES feeding himself.  It's hilarious watching him try to get food into his mouth (and missing half the time).  This waterproof bib with sleeves is a wonderful invention!  (you can get similar ones at Babies"R"Us)  Here he is having watermelon, blueberries and raspberries...

First Day of School

So I celebrated not going back to work with some other colleagues who are also on maternity leave. It was a LOVELY day and I savoured every moment of it! Here's a picture of one of the babies napping on her mama. 

Back to School

This will be the first year in a long, long time that I will not be going "back to school" this September. Maternity leave has its perks! Today is the day before school starts. We're marking the date with a lunch at a friend's house and then husband and I are going out for our annual Labour Day dinner with friends.

Best Friend

My best friend is like a sister to me.  She's got my back.  She's ready for a throwdown against anyone who crosses me or my family.  She's also the best auntie in the whole world to baby.  Here they are hanging out.  I love her.

Look at those hippo teeth!

Creaky Knees

I feel like my body has forever changed since having baby.  Regular joint pain?  Check.  Hip pain?  Check.  Creaky knees?  Check.  What is going ON?!!!! 

HTML Crazyland

I have spent the past 4+ hours figuring out how to center my blog header and description and how to align my photos with my text. The world of HTML is just crazyland to me. It's done, but I have no idea what I did. I'm just going to save my template and hope that I never have to do that again!

Sunshines

Here is baby with daddy at the park.  My two loves.  They are the sunshine in my life.  Yes, daddy has hairy legs that make them fun to snuggle into!