Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Easter

Well, it's the end of May, and I'm writing a post about Easter. I guess this is pretty solid proof of my blogging lazyiness. But, I took some really cute pictures over Easter, and I want to share them with you, so let's just hop into our time machines, and rewind a couple of months! I usually spend Easter in Atlanta, but this was a pretty special year for my family.  It was my baby's first Easter, as well as my nephews first Easter.  As if that isn't enough, it was also my grandmother's 90th birthday!  Since it was such a special year, Luke and I made the trip up to NY so my family could celebrate together.

We had a party for my Grandmother of Saturday night.  Luke and his cousins got all dressed up, and they looked so sweet!



The party was fun, and my Gram had a great time.

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My niece turned four in March, and my nephew turned four months.  My sister asked me if I would take some pictures of them while I was home.  We had a little session, and it was so much fun.  Of course I had to get some shots of my baby as well.  I know I'm biased, but I think they are just the cutest kids.

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It was a really great trip, and as always it was wonderful to see my family!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Microadjustment for Dummies

A couple of months ago I bought a used Canon 50mm f/1.4 off of Craigslist.  I was so excited to get it.  I really wanted to love it, but I just didn't.  Why, you ask?  Because all of my pictures were just a tiny bit out of focus.  I admit it, I'm an obsessive pixel peeper. I thrive on clearly defined eyelashes, and when I looked at pictures from this lens I was routinely seeing fuzzy eyes.

There was a silver lining though.  Right between those fuzzy eyes was a perfectly crisp, clear, and focused nose! This was great news because it meant that the lens was not broken, or soft.  It was just back focusing. I knew that one of the benefits of my lovely new camera body is that it can microadjust lenses, and correct this exact problem.  Hooray!  Except I had absolutely no idea how to do it, and was even a little scared to try.  I shouldn't have been.  It was actually a very easy process, and more importantly it's an easy process to undo or redo, so there's no reason to be afraid of messing up a lens.

The first thing I did was break out my camera manual.  It actually gave very clear and easy instructions for how to set the adjustment (page 104 if you're curious).  It was really just a matter of pressing a few buttons.  My camera can store one adjustment across the board, or a specific adjustment for each lens (and for zooms, a separate adjustment for each end of the range!). Excellent!

The next step was figuring out what adjustments needed to be made. Enter google.  There are actually a variety of tools and software options that you can purchase to automate this process.  But I'm cheap.  And lazy. And impatient.  So I wanted something that I could do NOW!  That's when I found the ghettoCAL DIY Lens Calibration Tool  It's a great page that offers a printable PDF to make your own calibration target!

I didn't have some of the supplies that David used to make his target, so I improvised a bit.  I used a scrapbooking paper cutter to knock out my pieces, and I mounted them to a manila file folder instead of foam core.  I had to add a few extra support pieces to attach the ruler, but other than that it worked like a charm. I even broke out my level and protractor to make sure that all of my angles were right!


After that it was just a matter of setting my camera up on a tripod, and taking some pictures with different micro adjustment values applied.  Everything that I read said that nailing exposure was important for proper micro adjustment.  The aperture needs to be wide open, so that setting was easy.  I knew I wanted a fast shutter speed to eliminate the possibility of motion blur impacting my results, and a low ISO so that noise wouldn't make it more difficult to clearly see my depth of field.  In order to meet all of those needs, I decided to shoot outside so that I would have plenty of light.  I also used a remote trigger to avoid any chance of camera shake.

For each lens I took a series of pictures at -20, -15,-10,-5, 0, 5, 10, 15 and 20.  Then I loaded the images onto my computer and zoomed in to see how the plane of focus shifted.  It was actually easier than I was expecting to see the change. Once I found the best setting, I went back and took another shot to see if I needed to refine, and then I took a picture of some actual subjects to make sure that I was happy with the results.  In the end I adjusted my 50mm to +5, my 100mm to +3, and I learned that my 85mm was spot on.

The whole process took about 90 minutes, including the time to make the target.  Once I got into a groove it went very quickly.  I'm so happy that I did it.  I can see a noticeable difference in the 50, and I'm hopeful that this will make me love it like I know I should!  I'm planning on repeating the process for the rest of my lenses later this week.

What's up eyelashes?!
Shooting 201: Focushunting - head shot

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nine Months Old

My baby is nine months old already! I know I keep saying this, but time is just slipping by so quickly these days. It's unbelievable!

Nine months is a pretty big milestone, so I decided to drag out some of my toys and have a little photo shoot with the baby.  I can't believe it's only the second time that I've really done that with him, and the first time was when he was four days old!  He was a little bit cranky, so I tried to keep it short.  I was still able to get some really cute pics though.



This was my first time using the fake wood floor/wall props.  I know it's kind of overdone, but I still think it's a cute look.  For the floor I used wood patterned bulletin board paper, with plexiglass over it.  If I did it again I would probably skip the plexi, because I think it caused some weird reflections.  I used it mostly because I set this up in my living room, and I was too lazy to pull the rug up.  The plexi allowed me to put the paper on top of the rug, without worrying about any wrinkles when I put the baby on top.  I think it would be worth it to take the time to do that in future though.

My baby is too big for this basket!
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This is my favorite one from the set.  He just looks so happy.  It really captures his personality perfectly.
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I should really take the time to do this more often.  I love having pictures like this to remember every stage of his babyhood.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Welcome Owen!

My neighbors welcomed their son earlier this month, and they were nice enough to let me come over and snap some pictures for them.  Owen is such an adorable man, and I had a great time with him.

Owen had no interest in sleeping while I was over there, but he was such a happy little man, and was perfectly content to stare at me and have his picture taken.  I think he just didn't want to miss a minute of his first photo shoot!



He was only two weeks old, but he was so alert!
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This session was great practice for me, because I had to experiment with options outside of a typical squishy sleeping newborn.  It was a wonderful learning experience, and I think some of the shots that I got really capture his personality.
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Owen's grandmother handmade a gorgeous quilt for him, so of course we had to include it in some of the pictures.
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And I also captured some of those adorable tiny baby details.
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I'm so happy that I got to take these.  It was tons of fun, and I think that I learned a lot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Christmas in NY

For Christmas this year, my little family piled into the car and drove 1000 miles up to Albany, NY.  I was completely freaking out somewhat nervous about making such a long drive with a seven month old, but my baby was amazing.  He slept pretty much the whole time in both directions, and we were able to make it in about 18 hours each way.  I love him so much.

I knew this week would be filled with some amazing photo opportunities (baby's first Christmas, meeting my new nephew, family gatherings, etc.), and borrowlenses had a promotion where you could get an extra week with a 10 day rental, so I decided that this would be the perfect time to try out the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 that I've been drooling over.

Overall, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in the Tamron.  I really wanted to love it, because I am feeling the loss of my Tamron 17-50 since moving to full frame, and I was hoping that this would fill the hole.  Unfortunately there was so much vignetting and distortion with this lens, that I think it's off of my dream list.  I guess it's back to lusting over the Canon 24-70 for me. In spite of that, it was sharp, and I did have a lot of fun playing with it.

I took some pics of my sweet new nephew for my sister.  Here are some of my favs:


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And here's one of my niece, sporting her favorite new dress up outfit - Wonder Woman!
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and of course, all three of the cousins together:james_newborn-107-Edit

On Christmas morning, I happily handed the camera over to my husband, and he got some great shots of our baby.  Luke was too young to really understand what was going on, but he did have a great time tearing off wrapping paper, and he got so excited playing with his new toys.

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And of course, I had to take some pictures of him all dressed up for Christmas dinner!  The wee hat slays me.
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Towards the end of our stay there was a snow storm, and I was so excited about Luke getting to experience snow for the first time.  We plopped him down in a snowbank, and he seemed to really like it.

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Then Nonnon got the sled out, and he REALLY liked it!
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It was so great to be able to spend so much time with my family.  Luke's first Christmas was really just so much fun.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Holidogs


Christmas cards are one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  I love receiving them, and I love sending them.  For the last several years, my husband and I have designed our own cards, featuring our boxers, Sascha and Duke.  Our goal is to make them as cheesy as possible, and I'd say we've not only met that goal, but exceeded it each year.

This year we had the challenge of incorporating a baby into the mix.  I was a little worried about trying to wrangle a six month old along with two dogs, but it was actually much easier than I expected, so that was nice.   The concept for this year's card was to pose the baby as Santa, and the dogs as his reindeer.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out:


The back of the card was all baby.  I absolutely love this picture, and the composition was great for the back of a card because it left the perfect spot for me to write a little note.

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Here are some of our cards from past years:

2011
Happy Holidogs 2011

2010
Happy Holidogs 2010

and just because it still makes me laugh, here's an older one from 2008, when Sascha was our only baby.  I can't believe I used Curlz.
Holidogs 2008

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baby Shower

My good friend Danielle is expecting a baby at the beginning of February.  I am so excited for her and her husband.  To help her prepare, my friend Nicole and I got together and threw her a baby shower last weekend.  Given the time of year, and the fact that Danielle loves the holidays, we decided to go with a Christmas theme, and thanks to Pinterest, we really ran with it.  There were just so many cute ideas out there!

Here are the invitations that I made (with a little help from my mom!):


The inside said "Danielle and Marcos are expecting a bundle of joy!"

We set up a hot beverage bar and we made crock pot hot chocolate, candy cane marshmallow stirs, and coffee, and we provided a variety of alcoholic mixers such as Baileys, Peppermint Schnapps and Adult Egg Nog.
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The hot chocolate was good, but VERY rich, so if you make that, I recommend using a little less chocolate and condensed milk, and a little extra regular milk.  The recipe as is is perfect for mixing with coffee to make a delicious mocha treat.

We also made a cranberry punch (with optional champagne), and provided a variety of wine and soft drinks.

For food we had the pinfamous cheese christmas tree, a pretty vegetable and pastry wreath, homemade baba ganoush, crock pot cocktail meatballs, and a christmas cookie buffet including candy cane bars, gingerbread cheesecake bites and crack toffee.  Possibly my favorite entry on the cookie table were homemade pizzelles.  They always make me think of my Grandma. danielle_baby_shower-44

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We offered little takehome bags on the cookie table as party favors, and that worked out wonderfully.  People loved getting cookies to take home, and we weren't stuck with hundreds of cookies at the end of the day either!

For decorations, we really just decorated for Christmas, but with a few special touches.  It all centered around the "bundle of joy" tagline.  We had a Christmas tree that we decorated with red, green and silver balls, then I cut a million Js, Os and Ys on my cricut and hung them as ornaments as well.  We wrapped the stair railing in garland, and hung little red and green stockings, each filled with little baby necessities, such as spoons, saline drops, pacifiers and bottles. Everything looked so festive!

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Perhaps my favorite part of the decor was the photo wall. We just hung up strips of red and white crepe paper, and a "bundle of joy" banner that I cut with my cricut.
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It was so easy to do, and the resulting pictures were adorable.

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My friend and I had so much fun planning this shower, and I am really happy with how it all turned out. Danielle, I hope you enjoyed it!  Congratulations, and we are so excited for you!
 

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