Enjoy the day you’re given

Enjoy the day you’re given

Now that our three older kids are entering the stage of going to dances and parties and special events, I get almost as excited as they do about any opportunity they have to get dressed up and do something fancy. I love taking their photos, and I usually start planning a few days in advance for some fun photo ideas.

Our oldest son went to homecoming on Saturday, and he and his date asked if I could photograph them before the dance. They had gone to his homecoming three weeks ago, and we got some beautiful shots. We were all excited about the chance to shoot more photos before the dance at her school across town.

We all agreed it would be fun to shoot photos of the two of them on a big bridge that’s not too far away. Then, we hoped to get some group shots with her friends by the river. Now that the sunset is a little earlier, the timing would work out perfectly to get silhouette shots of them framed by the sunset. I had the whole photo shoot planned out in my mind.

But when Saturday arrived, Mother Nature had other ideas. The rain started in the middle of the night. It was coming down in sheets, with intense lightning and loud claps of thunder. The rain continued all morning. I convinced myself that by mid-afternoon, we would get a break. I envisioned the clouds parting to wow us with a beautiful backdrop, just in time for our photo shoot.

Finally, by mid-afternoon, I had to concede to the weather. The rain was only getting more intense, coming down in thick waves. Just when you thought it might slow down just a little, another round would hit. Torrential downpour would have been an understatement.

That’s when it hit me that I needed to stop trying to create the perfect photo-op out of impossible conditions. Instead, I needed to think of a way to capture the beauty of what we’d been given. So, how do you take outdoor natural light photos of people who are dressed up and don’t want to get wet when it’s pouring down rain?

With an umbrella, of course!

As I was driving to the home of my son’s date, I noticed several covered pavilions in the parks by her house. This might work!

We ended up with some really fun shots of the two of them standing under an umbrella together. You can’t tell from the photos how hard it was actually raining, so I thought I would post some other shots to show the whole experience.

Here’s my son trying his best to keep his date dry as they walked up to the pavilion.

I edited the photos to look like they were standing outside, but they were really covered by a small section of roof.

I was actually the one who got soaked because I had to stand outside of the covered area to get far enough away to take the photos. Thankfully, my son’s friend’s mom held an umbrella over me to try to keep me from getting too wet!

With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to delete a random picnic table and crop out the top of the pavilion to create some cute photos of the two of them “outdoors”.

Can you see how hard the rain is coming down as we rushed back to our cars?

Well, these two had amazing attitudes on what was probably the worst weather imaginable for homecoming. We also created some great memories of taking photos in that crazy storm! And I was reminded of a lesson that’s often hard for me to remember. Instead of trying to create a perfect experience, just find a way to enjoy the day you’re given!

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Week five and six

Week five and six

It’s only week six of the new year, and I’ve already fallen behind by a week in my daily photo project! I debated giving up on the whole thing completely, but here I am! I’m getting caught up with the end of January and beginning of February.

JAN. 29

It was the 100th day of school at kindergarten, and the kids got to celebrate by dressing like they were 100 years old. I will admit that getting our 6 year old to wear this outfit to school was not a happy experience. She actually cried so much that I let her take a nap and go to school late. When we arrived, her entire class of elderly 6 year olds were filing into the principal’s office to sing a song. As soon as she saw all of her peers with gray hair, canes and funny outfits, her anxiety faded. I had bribed her to at least wear her curly gray wig long enough for her teacher to see. Instead, she ended up wearing it the entire day!

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That evening, we were blessed with an incredible sunset.

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JAN. 30

We spent the morning with the eagles. Click here for more on that adventure.

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JAN. 31

Our sixth grader had her first gymnastics meet of the season. I wasn’t able to attend, but CapableDad did an amazing job taking photos!

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Here’s a quick recap of some of my favorite photos from January:

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FEB. 1

I think the hardest thing for me about winter is the darkness. Not only are the days short, but we get very few sunny days. On this day, it was nearly 50 degrees and felt like spring! I can’t wait to have these days on a regular basis!

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FEB. 3

Sadly, the cloudless sky was followed by a day of rain. I had to go for a drive and find something pretty. This farm was just what I needed!

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FEB. 4

Our freshman’s basketball team played against their crosstown rivals. Both teams sold neon shirts to fit with the theme of “brightout.” Although I failed to take any photos of the game, I thought it was cool to see the boys lined up in their shirts. 🙂

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FEB. 6

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I decided to switch out my winter decor to celebrate the season of love. I made something new this year to add to my decor from last year. I used a wood burning tool to carve our initials into a river birch log that CapableDad had cut down from a tree in our yard. <3

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FEB. 10

I’ve seen this gate several times, but finally decided to go take its pic. It just happened to be the first day of Lent, and I had decided to give up watching TV shows for the next 40 days. Instead, I have started listening to podcasts and reading more. I just happened to be listening to a podcast called “Starting Over,” which I thought was fitting for the first day of Lent. Just as I drove up to the gate, the person was talking about stripping away the old in order to start something new. He said it was like refinishing furniture. You have to sand away the old paint before you can put on a new coat. I guess that old gate was there to give me an object lesson.

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FEB. 11

And we will wrap up week 6 of this year with a photo of a peachy prairie sunset.

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Life lesson from the eagles

Life lesson from the eagles

A few weeks ago, CapableDad and I took off for a little photography adventure. We drove a few hours west of where we live to a spot along the Mississippi River that is a well known location for shooting photos of eagles. Although the eagle migration has been steadily declining in recent years, bird watchers can still see at least a few eagles nesting right next to the river. Photographers can get a close-up view of the eagles as they soar over a walkway and dive into the river to grab fish and take them back to the trees to feast.

I imagined that we would have to hike down a path or trek through a forest to find such a magical spot that was home to the eagles. Instead, we drove into a large parking lot filled with cars. We couldn’t believe the crowd of photographers already lined up on the sidewalk, overlooking the river. I was intimidated before I even opened the car door.

Under normal circumstances, I sometimes feel awkward pulling out my long 500 mm lens because it’s so obnoxious. Here, my largest lens was miniscule compared to the $10,000 telescopes these people had mounted to their cameras. I felt like I was invading a long-standing tradition, much like when I dare to drag my four kids on an early morning commuter train and wonder where I’m “allowed” to sit so I don’t disturb the regulars.

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We found a spot to set up my puny camera on my monopod. Everyone else mounted their massive lenses on high-end tripods with smooth rotating gimbals. I observed for a while to make sure I didn’t break any unwritten rules or get in anyone’s way.

It seemed there were a few regulars who were in charge. They had a large cooler full of frozen fish. Every so often, they would toss a fish into the river, hoping to lure the eagles out of the trees.

If an innocent person made the mistake of taking his or her dog for a walk on the shore directly across from the line of photographers, the boss man would shout at the person with instructions to immediately vacate the area. “You’ll scare the eagles!” he would yell, making it obvious they had no right to go for a walk in this particular park during prime eagle viewing season.

All of the photographers would stay on the ready, not wanting to miss the moment when one, two or three eagles would soar across the sky. If we were lucky, we could catch that moment when an eagle scraped its claws under the water and scooped up a fish.

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As I stood there trying to fit in, I noticed how my expectations of this situation were affected by the people around me.

It was a beautiful morning with the sun breaking through a sky full of rippled clouds. Sea gulls were soaring across the sky. Just 50 feet behind me, four eagles — FOUR EAGLES!!! — were sitting in the trees.

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And yet, most of the people stood there staring straight ahead. Waiting. Only a few cameras were clicking. Only a few people ventured over to the trees. The rest stayed in position making small talk and waiting to see that graceful outline of an eagle’s wings.

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I kept reminding myself of everything around me that I would normally find beautiful.

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This place. This river. That bridge. The clouds. The sun. The sea gulls.

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The EAGLES SITTING IN A TREE so close to me that I could walk right up to the base of it and take as many photos as I liked without scaring them away!

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All of these things were so much more beautiful than what I would see on any other normal day. And yet, I kept falling into the same lull as everyone around me. What’s the point of taking a photo of all of those things when the eagles might come soaring by at any minute? When I could get a really good shot? When I could get the thing that I came here for?

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Isn’t that so much how we go through life?

Our expectations of how something SHOULD be cloud our ability to see just how blessed we ALREADY are. We spend so much time waiting for what we think should happen, that we miss out on the precious moments right in front of us.

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During our two hours of eagle watching, we only got to see the beauty of the eagles soaring over the water three times. I realized that getting good photos of those magnificent birds as they dove across the water wasn’t a skill I could master in such a short amount of time.

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I only went home with a few eagle shots that were in focus. So, I suppose in the world of stellar eagle photography, you would call that trip a bust.

But compared to any average day, it was an awe-inspiring and beautiful experience!

 

 

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First Week

First Week

I had so much fun shooting photos last year, that I decided to continue trying to take photos every day in 2016. I’m only “trying” to take a daily photo, because if I commit to doing it, I know I will get mad and grumpy at myself the first time I skip a day. And then I’ll just give up completely. This is supposed to be fun, so I’m taking photos everyday, as long as it’s something I do for fun and enjoyment and not another “to do” to mark off my list.

JAN. 1

After several weeks of completely gray skies, Jan. 1 brought this amazing sunset.
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Earlier in the day, we took a walk down to the nature path behind our house to go check in on the beavers. The hubs and I have been walking down there as often as possible the past few weeks to see this area that was a small stream in the fall. The beavers are building a large dam, turning the stream into a lake. It’s amazing to see how much wood they chop down in a short amount of time. We still haven’t seen a beaver, but we love checking in on their hard work.

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The girls came along on this bright sunny day.

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These are the boots Kent got me for Christmas. I absolutely love them because I can stomp through the mud and snow and even wade into the swampy area around the pond.

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JAN. 2

After the epic sunset the night before, I was sure the sunrise would be amazing, too. It didn’t disappoint.

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JAN. 3

These days, I’m just thankful any time we have blue skies. The landscape can be so barren and bland this time of year, but at least it SPARKLES!

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JAN. 4

I’ve been amazed by the number of geese on every pond around here the past few days. They are so loud that they fill up the air with their honking.

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JAN. 5

I pass this little pond on my walk each day, so I enjoy checking in on the geese.

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JAN. 6

I’ve noticed a few differences between the geese and the ducks, which have been crammed in tight on the frozen pond. The geese all seem to face the same direction.

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As soon as I get even a little bit close, they start taking off, one group at a time.

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JAN. 7

The ducks, on the other hand, are perfectly fine to stay put when I walk up. They also don’t seem as organized. They all face different directions, and slowly meander in and out of the water. They are definitely more laid back than the geese.

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There you have it… My photos for the first week of January. Did you see anything interesting this week?

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THE gift

THE gift

Thank you to all of my wonderful Facebook friends for the early birthday wishes, and for actually playing along with me by guessing my birthday gift! I’m pretty much a 7-year-old when it comes to birthdays. I love celebrating birthdays, whether it’s for my kids, friends, random people or myself! You were all so nice to even care what I got for my gift.

So, anyone who guessed DID guess correctly. You all know me so well to know that I would be most excited about a gift related to photography!

The last few years, I was mainly interested in portrait photography so I was totally fine with the two lenses that I have. Both are perfect for shooting family photos. These past few months, I’ve become so interested in shooting wildlife or the sky or the moon that I’ve been wishing I had a lens with a longer focal length. Because lenses are so expensive, I haven’t let myself really think about it until this past week. We found some older models in a price range we could consider, and the hubs jumped on it and got the lens for me.

I was hoping to post some really amazing shots that I had taken with the lens, but I didn’t realize what a learning curve it would be. I didn’t think about how heavy the lens would be or that I would need a tripod to get a decent shot. Carrying around a tripod is a different way of thinking to me and requires much more planning than my usual routine of just grabbing a camera and shooting whatever.

So, here’s the one shot I have so far that was decent enough to post:

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I’m super excited to spend more time playing with my new lens! Get ready for more close-up shots of frogs and birds and whatever other wildlife I can find. Right now, I’m determined to get a shot of the pheasant that lives out in the prairie. The crazy thing is like a siren, calling out to me night and day, but I never ever see it! I’m also hoping to get some shots of the owls that hang out in the tree by us, and can’t wait for the hummingbirds to get back here after the winter migration.

I was a wee bit excited this morning and did run out to try to get some photos as the sun was coming up. Happy Saturday!

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prime time

prime time

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For many years of my life, I remember looking forward to “prime time.” After dinner, I would relax in front of the TV and watch my favorite shows. I knew the weekly viewing schedule, and I could tell you the names of all of the shows that started at 7 p.m. — the prime time viewing hour.

Prime time around our house looks completely different these days. Our lone television is tucked down in our basement family room. It rarely is turned on, unless the boys want to watch a basketball game or the girls want to rent a movie.

Instead, if we don’t have to be anywhere after dinner, we often hang out staring out the sliding glass door in our kitchen. We gaze at the sky and wait for the art display that takes place every night. We ooh and ahh as the sky changes from blue to shades of purple and pink and finally the deep reds and oranges that we get with a really great sunset.

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I know we watched the sunsets when we lived in our old house. It just required more effort to go out in the front yard and peer between two houses opposite ours to get a really good view. We didn’t drop what we were doing every single night just to sit and stare at the sky.

We feel so crazy blessed that our house is situated in such a way that we have an amazing view of the sunset every evening. It’s prime time viewing we don’t like to miss.

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My husband and I send each other texts if we have to be somewhere else during the critical hour. “What am I missing?” “Is it a really good one?” “I hope you’re taking photos!”

Last night, we had some awesome sky viewing in between several nasty storms. The kids lined up on the stairs of the deck with their dad to get a front row seat. The tornadoes ended up missing our area, but the bright sunlight shining through the storm clouds gave us a great show.

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It makes me laugh to think about what my kids will remember from their years growing up. They will probably talk about their boring parents who were obsessed with watching the sky every evening. They might remember some of our funny conversations as we all sat around waiting for the sky to grow dark and light up with color. They aren’t going to know the names of any popular TV shows from their childhood. But hopefully, they will always be able to appreciate a really good sunset. 🙂

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How about you? Do you love watching the sky? Do you go out of your way to see a good sunset?

 

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