Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lego Gone Girly

When I was a little girl, I had--what I believe--was an impressive collection of the Lego Castle system. The bricks were gray and black in--what I imagine--was an attempt to make them look realistic. I LOVED spending an afternoon going through the entire process of building one or more sets. Looking back now, it is possible that I exhibited some OCDish tendencies early on: I would never build a castle until I had first sorted all the bricks. The joy of following the directions to ultimately build the structure was second to the elation I felt after successfully sorting all the bricks into nice, neat, little piles.

In addition to my Castle Lego collection,  I also had a giant blue case that had a random assortment of bricks and people. Basically, I kept all my non-castle Lego sets in there. It was just a hodge-podge mess of green base plates and red, yellow, green, blue, and white bricks. And flowers. (Those Lego flowers really added a little je ne sais quoi to my creations.) 

I have to admit that the first time I saw Lego being marketed to girls, I bristled a little. I didn't need Lego bricks in "girly" colors. Then I saw this:

Initially, I was outraged. Decades of gender-coding have resulted in this Frozen Lego set. Does everything have to be gender-coded? If kids won't play with something because of its color, then there is something wrong with that. And yes, I interpret that as an indicator that we are failing as a society. 

Maybe I'm guilty of it too. For a while I was maintaining two gym bags: A pink one that had my pink and purple gym clothes and a blue one that had my black and blue gym clothes. Each one had Nike tennis shoes that would match everything in the respective bag. In my defense, I never thought of them as my girl and boy bags though. It was just always convenient to work out of one bag each week while washing the clothes in the other. The different-colored bags to match the clothes . . . well, there is a saying that goes "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world." I say give that girl a matching bag!

That Lego catalog sat on my dining room table for a while and I just kept thinking about it every time I saw it. The more I thought about it though, the more I began to soften and see it differently. I love pink and purple. I didn't as a little girl, but if the woman I am today were a little girl, she would love to have so many colors to choose from in her giant Lego brick. Yes, kids today get to store their Lego bricks in awesome, giant, Lego-shaped boxes. They are so lucky--not just because of their cute, clever storage options, but because they have more colors to choose from when building. As a classroom teacher, I always wanted my kids to have as many options as possible when it came to building their futures. Sadly, I know there is no correlation between the number of Lego color options available and future success. I know that many kids with big dreams today will grow up and still face limited options as they enter adulthood tomorrow. I also know this is especially true for some girls and that breaks my heart.

Today I applaud Lego for what they are doing. "Girls" is now a category on the Lego website. Maybe some cynics out there will see it as a way to increase sales. If pink and purple bricks thrown into the mix, get more girls playing with Lego sets and building, then I'm for it. Why shouldn't a girl have to build her dream house before she plays house? Why should she have to rely on someone (notice I didn't say "man") to give it to her? If building a hair salon inspires a girl to want to run her own business someday, I'm for it. And the White House comes up under the Girls category too. 


If the Frozen set above is the gateway to future building, then I'm for it. Build on, girls. Build on.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Project 52: Shot 26

A Sad Moment You Want to Remember (June 29, 2016)

My grandmother passed away on December 31st, 2015. Those of you who know me well know the role she played in my life and the impact she had on it. We buried her at the beginning of the year and when I started this project, I knew right away that I wanted this shot to somehow be about Mami Tere. I also knew it would probably be my most difficult one--not technically, but emotionally. I haven't been back to her grave since the day we buried her, but I knew I would have to go if I wanted this shot.

I wanted this picture to match the emotion of the moment we buried her, and in my head, I imagined using flowers to create something beautiful and artistic. I chose a small bouquet of roses because Mami Tere would take me to offer flowers to the Virgin Mary when I was a little girl. Unfortunately, one of the first things I noticed when I got to the cemetery is that it didn't look the way I remembered it: the dreariness of that cloudy, winter morning had been replaced by the brightness of a sunny, summer afternoon. As a result, my photos were too bright and too green. My memories of that day are dark and gray so I knew this was going to require some work in Lightroom. My cousin, Alan, had passed along some tips--and I tried them--but I still wasn't getting the effect I wanted. What I wanted was a black and white shot with only the flowers in color. So I Googled it and after watching two videos, this is what I was able to come up with. 

I'm happy with this shot. I feel the black and white captures the sadness of the original moment, and the color represents the love and positive memories that are left behind when someone passes. (Patrick Swayze's words from Ghost in this scene have always brought me comfort regarding that.) There is a good chance I will look back at this shot six months from now and shudder at how bad it is based on my future knowledge and skills, but as I look back at my photos so far, I think it's a good first: my first time knowing how I wanted a shot to ultimately look and being able to achieve that as opposed to just clicking various presets until I find one that makes me say "I think that looks good. I'll do that."

You may or may not have noticed the number of this shot: 26. I'm halfway done with my challenge!

And in case you're wondering where I got the flowers . . . I went to the Urban Florist on Mountain, and I wouldn't include a link if I wasn't happy with their service. =)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thoughts and Shots: June 28, 2016

Yesterday, I went to the La Brea Tar Pits and despite the fact that I took my camera, I only took 11 shots. I am still really self-conscious about taking out my camera and shooting. I think I need to grow a pair of balls the size of this Columbian mammoth:
I love this shot. It was the first one I took and I consider it my best one of the day. I like the shape of the tusks and how I managed to shoot through them. It's what I was attempting to do in my Shoot Through Something shot for my Project 52.

There are two things I remember about my previous trip to the Tar Pits during elementary school: 1) how hard it would be to pull myself out of tar and 2) these mammoths outside:
My original shot of this iconic scene felt too trite initially.  I tried to make my own statement with the editing by cropping out the male. I learned that males wouldn't even spend time with the herd except when mating. That really resonated with me so I decided to have the focal points be the female trapped in the tar and her baby. Take a closer look at her baby. (Click on the photo to make it bigger. Go ahead. I'll wait.) Look at that anguish as he (or she!) calls out. Now look at the male again. Look at how the imminent danger doesn't really seem to register with him. That's why I cropped most of his ass out.

The day was hazy so I wasn't able to capture as much blue sky as I would have liked in this shot:
Now, I know you're not supposed to have your subjects centered because it makes your picture less interesting, BUT I'm pretty sure you're allowed to break that rule occasionally. Plus when I was editing, I found a crop overlay that was a more narrow version of the rule of thirds. The trees lined up fairly perfectly so I think it works. 

I feel like I'm starting to get a little better at editing in Lightroom. One of the things I'm having a hard time with though is making more than one version of a photo. For example, take my first shot in this post: I edited it, exported it, and shared it on Facebook. Then I decided I wanted it in black and white for my staircase photo display. You can't really make "copies" of photos in Lr (or maybe you can and I just don't know how) so I ended up looking at the history of my edits and going back to before I applied the filter. I then applied a black and white filter and exported it again. Is this the right way to do this? I don't know. Should I stop worrying about the "right way" to do things? Probably.

I guess it helps to think of my photos in Lightroom as drafts, perpetual rough drafts that are only final when I export them. And even then, they can always be reworked and exported again. I guess it's like writing. When I think of it that way, it starts to make sense.

[Update: I just learned how to make a photo black and white in Lightroom without any filters. I don't know if doing that first would have had any kind of an impact on the mammoth shot or my Dynamic Black and White shot though. Oh well. The more I learn, the less I know, right?] 

Project 52: Shots 24-25

Details (June 25, 2016)

My boyfriend and I recently took his son to the Santa Monica pier. We had tickets to see Finding Dory at the El Capitán later that evening, but riding the Expo Line to Santa Monica was a game time decision. Apparently, we were not the only ones who had that idea on this day.

I took this shot from one end of the pier and I'm pleased with how it came out. I used the golden spiral crop overlay when I was editing it which I don't get to use very often so I was excited. I realize there is a lot going on, but I think that's the point.

Dynamic Black and White (June 25, 2016) 

I have been trying to get this shot for a while now. I don't know why it's been so hard. Maybe because it required me to imagine the shot in black and white while taking it in color. Or maybe because it's supposed to be dynamic, but I tend to think of photos as static moments that are frozen in time. Looking back now, maybe dynamic and static aren't mutually exclusive when it comes to photography. 

Seeing the waves crashing along the posts of the pier and the white spray against the darkness of the area underneath made me think this would translate well into black and white. I had some shots without the people and rides but I used this one because I felt they added context to the shot and made it more dynamic. Plus when I was editing it, I used an overlay that had a bunch of triangles and both the waves on the bottom left and rides on the top right lined up where they were supposed to according to the guide.

This is one of the first shots where my finished product is relatively close to what I was imagining in my head before even taking it. 

Project 52: Shot 23

A Treasure (June 12, 2016)

This photo was taken in the desert. People who don't know my girlfriends and me very well think "we're going to the desert" means we're going camping in the middle of a desolate, barren wasteland. Nope. To us, a desert trip means relaxation, food, and shopping.

These trips always begin with charcuterie upon arrival. The treasure in this shot is not the collection of cheese and processed meats you see before you. It is my friendships with the women who consume the aforementioned cheese and meats. The women who let me drive and keep me laughing the whole time. The women who let me indulge my need to eat every three hours. The women who know every store along Highway 111. I have known these women for over a decade now and I plan on keeping them around when I retire. I'm thankful that this photo project allowed me to capture them in this way.

Yes. We love cheese and processed meats. 

Project 52: Shots 21-22

A Tradition (June 2, 2016)

Randy and I seem to have started a tradition of finding places to watch sports while traveling. It started last summer when we discovered El Torito in Puerto Vallarta (no relation to the corporate Mexican restaurant here) and watched UFC 189 and the Home Run Derby there.  The cruise we took this summer continued that tradition when we discovered a bar above our dining room. We were able to watch Game 1 of this year's NBA's Finals and have a few post-dinner drinks since we had chosen the early (read: old people) dinner time.  

Depending on who scored, different sides of the bar would cheer. I don't know if the staff had organized the seating that way on purpose or if the fans had looked for and found their own kind. At any rate, it made for a nice memory of our first night on the cruise. 

I feel I should mention that I felt über-hipster (read: dorky) arranging and taking pictures of our drinks. I'm still working on my I'm-being-artistic-so-don't-bother-me-right-now attitude.

Frame Your Subject (June 3, 2016)

Did you read my Shoot Through Something post? Do you remember how I wanted to create an unusual and artistic shot? I feel like this shot is a little closer to that. That must mean I'm getting better! 

This shot was taken at a restaurant in Ensenada near the Bufadora. Randy and I decided that hiring a taxi would be our best way there. It ended up being about the same price as the ship's excursion but at least we weren't crowded on a bus. Instead, we had someone to talk to and answer our questions. Correction: I had someone to talk to and answer my questions. (I would have asked questions at our muster drill the night before, but someone didn't let me.) Allegedly, this wasn't the Michelada we were looking for, but the food was good and the view was great. I used my words and we were allowed to sit at the top level of the restaurant which allowed me to get this shot.

If you read between the lines of my True Happiness post, you learned that my relationship with Mexico is a little more complex now than it used to be. It felt a little weird to be in Mexico on this particular day. Maybe it was because the entire Bufadora area seems to be a tourist trap. Or maybe it was the brief amount of time we were there. In addition to that, I couldn't get my cell phone to work so I couldn't send my cousins in Aguas a quick message or photo on What'sApp. I felt disconnected and it really didn't feel like Mexico propa' to me.

Project 52: Shot 20

The Everyday (May 17, 2016)

Waze usually sends me home along a different route each day, but on most days, it sends me north on Euclid Avenue. I love those days. Now I'm no civil engineer, but I believe Euclid could be described as a tree-lined, split street with a green belt. I love progress and civilization, but every once in a while, it's nice to drive on a street that doesn't have any strip malls on it. 

During the last week of school, I drove home one day with my moon roof open, and I just happened to glance up while I was stopped at a light. I realized that the view straight up was just as beautiful, but I had never even seen it. I pulled my camera out of my purse, did my best to meter at the next red light and then just took some shots. Straight up.

It probably wasn't the safest thing to do, but I love blue skies with a few clouds! I'm glad I have this shot, and I've already uploaded it to be the background of my Trello board to kick off the upcoming school year.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thoughts and Shots: May 12, 2016

Google Keep reminds me every week that I'm working on a Project 52. My heavy purse reminds me that at any moment I can pull out my camera and be a shot closer to being a better photographer. That said, it's hard to pull it out and take shots for a number of reasons. If nothing else, this challenge may help me care a little less about what others think, and that's a step in the right direction for me.

This past week I went to Acerogami in Downtown Pomona for an Insecure Alex show. Another set of musicians that I really like, Jook and Pro, were going to open up for them and I figured it would be a good opportunity to just take some shots. I decided to commit to nothing but my ID, debit card, phone, lip gloss, and camera. More importantly, I decided not to worry about what people might think of me as I weaved in and out of them taking pictures. I ended up with nearly 150 shots and a chance to practice some editing.

Unfortunately, everything I know how to do in Lightroom has either come from watching someone do a quick editing demo at a workshop or googling "how do I _____ in lightroom?" I know the basics of composition and exposure. I also know there are LOTS of things you can do in Lightroom. The problem is I don't know what all those things are or why I would want to do them. So I started by adjusting my photos using the overlay tool and cropping them to be 5 x 7.

The venue was dark and the stage light colors were constantly changing. I think I ended up with a lot of shots that were underexposed because every time I would hit Auto Tone, the exposure would be increased. At first I found myself wanting to do that for every shot, but the more I worked, the more I noticed they lost some of their "effect." I don't even know what that effect was, mind you, I just knew that it was important to fight the urge to simply hit Auto Tone. I tried to manually adjust the exposure myself on some shots, but I noticed that the photos ended up grainier when I did that. The more I worked, the more I decided that the darkness and shadows worked. The following 2 shots were the only ones I didn't edit beyond cropping:

That said, I do think either Auto Tone or my own adjustments improved some shots:

I also played around with making some shots black and white--not because I knew what I was doing, but simply because I thought they looked cool:

As I look back at the photos (these and others--all of which I will post on Facebook), I realize that a lot of the ones I liked tended to be dramatic. On this particular night, I was able to capture some of the passion and drama that I love about live music and I'm hopeful that I can capture other emotions and moments throughout the year--as long as I pull my camera out of my purse, of course.

Project 52: Shots 16-19

Old (May 12, 2016)

If there is one thing I have learned from the death of my grandmother it is that we don't have forever with the people we love. I was painfully reminded of that most recently on Mother's Day and thankful I had the chance to make some memories with Papi Chevy a few days later.  Since Mami Tere's death, he hasn't really left the house for anything other than doctor appointments, so when he asked my dad to take him to a local winery, my sister and I invited ourselves to tag along. While we were wine tasting at the Galleano Winery, Papi Chevy was telling us about when he used to work there and naming people he used to work with and for. The lady serving us was polite while she listened and admitted that she didn't know anyone he named. It made me think about how much my grandfather has seen and experienced--so many memories! And when he goes, they go with him.

Same Subjects, 5 Angles (May 12, 2016)


The winery had a ton of old equipment just lying around in a field near the vineyards. It looked like it had been there for a while--trust me. I did a Google Images Search on "antique tractors" and I'm pretty sure the tractor above is from the 1940s. My excitement at crossing this off my shot list outweighed my fear of spiders and bugs while I worked my way around it and closer to it. As I look at the images now, I can't help but notice how the sky (when visible) is a slightly different shade of blue in each shot. The same goes for the background. In one, you can see industrial buildings in one, and palm trees in another. This is definitely a lesson in the importance of multiple shots. When I first started taking photos, I had a very "one and done" mentality. Now, the more photos I take and the more Lightroom work I  do, the more small differences I see. I'm hopeful that's a sign I'm improving and learning.

In Full Sun (May 12, 2016)  

There was virtually no shade out there in the field so I figured it would be a good time to take my "In Full Sun" shot. It was only when I was looking at this in Lightroom that I noticed there were still shadows. Looking back now, I wonder if should have pulled back more to make the full sun more evident. I also think I need to keep an eye out for more shadows because I haven't been able to take my "Let the Shadows Tell the Story" shot. I tried doing it that day, but I couldn't seem to find a story in any of the shadows in the courtyard or yard area so on my list that shot remains.

A Street Scene (May 12, 2016)

This ended up being a long day. After the field trip and a Bad Ass Book Club meeting, I went to a local bar to see Insecure Alex and Jook the First with MC Prototype. It was a great show and I was able to take (and edit) some good shots. As we were leaving, I looked to my right while crossing the street and I couldn't help but notice how empty it was. Empty. No cars. No people. Just the street and the lights.  Now when I first started working on these shots, I thought my street scene was going to be an urban shot with lots of people and action in broad daylight. Instead, it ended up being an empty 2nd Street in Downtown Pomona a little before 11 PM. 

You can see the Antique Row sign and looking back now, it was a perfect shot to end the day. In some ways, it falls in with the theme of some of my earlier shots that day and in others, it's a juxtaposition. 

I am now right "on track" with my Project 52. It's the start of the 20th week of 2016 and I have taken 19 shots. I still don't know if I should try to take a photo a week or just keep hacking away at it the way I have been. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Project 52: Shot 15

Your Spouse/Significant Other: How You Think of Them (sic) (April 30, 2016)

When you see my boyfriend for the first time, I know what you're thinking. The media and movies have been shaping your thinking about men who look like him for years. I hope this shot changes that.

With his dark skin and sunglasses, I am sure my boyfriend looks unfriendly. The type of person you wouldn't want in your neighborhood. The type of person you picture when listening to dedications on the Art Laboe show. The type of person Trump seems to think all Mexicans are. Look at what he's wearing though: the shirt of an alternative rock band. Now look at what he's doing: grilling barbecue chicken on an RVQ.

I think of my significant other as my opposite match. He and I have had similar experiences growing up in this country where people think they know you once they see the shade of your skin. You look at him and assume he knows Spanish; you look at me and assume I don't. I used to like dopey-looking white boys until I found this man whose background has been full of experiences both similar and opposite to mine. He has an RV (something I equate with old white men) and yet drinks the same beer that my dad does. I find that comforting. While I talk and overthink, he is quiet and thoughtful. I find that inspiring.

My significant other is a strong partner and dependable teammate. The picture indicates he is capable of feeding me, but what it doesn't show is how supportive he has been of me and all the things I've gone through during our time together, starting with my cousin's suicide the day after our first date. I've never wanted someone to take care of me: I've wanted someone strong enough to be able to take care of me if I ever needed it. Back when I was dating, my dad would tell me I was too picky; my mom, not to settle.  I am so glad I listened to my mom on this one. As a result, I found someone worthy of being with me. Someone who is as strong as I imagine myself to be. Someone whose actions show me more than words could ever tell.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Project 52: Shot 14

True Happiness (March 26, 2016)

Yes, Mexican Coke tastes like true happiness to me. No, I am not being paid to say that. Mexican Coke in a glass bottle reminds me of the time I would spend visiting my family in Mexico during the summer as a little girl. (I remember being so excited when I discovered I could buy a case of it at Costco!) This photo was taken at Mariscos Enriques, a Mexican seafood restaurant in South Ontario, and what you can't see is that a Cantinflas movie was playing on the TV in the corner--another reminder of my blissful summers in Mexico. 

Visiting Mexico as an adult isn't the same as it was when I was a child--mainly because I am now aware of some of the cultural differences which make me feel out of place at times. I remember someone once told me he could tell which kids had spent some time in the states based on how they walked. At the time, I didn't quite believe him, but now I understand what he meant. I imagine that the way I walk is one of the initial giveaways (among other things) that I'm not from down there when I visit. According to my aunt and mom, my clothes are another giveaway, but opening my mouth to speak probably removes any doubt. The self-consciousness of being an outsider now colors my experiences in Mexico these days, but true happiness was feeling I belonged anywhere I was.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Project 52: Shot 13

For the record, when I first saw this shot on my Project 52 list, I was really excited and imagined myself shooting through something and creating a really unusual, artistic shot. Maybe next year . . .

Shoot Through Something (March 25, 2016)


On Thursday night, I was taking some pictures of the moon from the Alta Loma High School parking lot. Those pictures were not for my Project 52; I just really like taking pictures of the moon despite the fact that they rarely come out the way I imagine they will. (To be fair, every time I shoot the moon, I imagine myself coming out with a shot that could be on the cover of National Geographic.) When I got home, I looked outside my living room and realized I could shoot the moon through the trees and that could be for my Project 52! 

Unfortunately, my backyard-moon-through-the-trees shot will not be gracing the covers or pages of any magazine in the near future. The shot would have been more impressive (atmospheric?) without the new two-story houses across the street--thank you, urban sprawl! These are the same houses whose occupants--according to my boyfriend--will now be able to look through my windows and see all the things I do with the shutters open. (I am only marginally concerned about this, but he is very concerned.)

After I was done taking my moon shots, I turned around and saw Starr in the window and I proceeded to shoot her through that which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes . . .

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land a good one of Starr.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Project 52: Shots 10-12

Again, I know this isn't the way I'm "supposed" to work my way through a Project 52, but it works for me.

Water (March 21, 2016)

I love the ocean. There is just something about being in its presence that I find soothing. I think it has a lot to do with the sound and steadiness of the crashing waves. I went to Santa Monica during my spring break and before I even got out of the car, I knew I wanted to take my water shot there. I took this one from the pier and looking back now, I think it could have been more interesting if I had gotten part of the shore in it. I might have lost some of the detail of the foam and the swells in the background though. I'm sure there's a life lesson in there somewhere--something about no regrets and being at peace with the decisions we make in the moment.

If I learned how to do nothing else during this project other than be okay with my decisions, it would not be a wasted year. 

Warmth (March 21, 2016)

I took this shot a few minutes before sunset. I couldn't remember the last time I watched the sun set until my boyfriend reminded me it had been with him in Puerto Vallarta this past summer. (I have an excellent memory.) Frankly, I'm a little frustrated that it took some editing to get the picture to look as warm as I wanted it to or thought it should. The colors in the sky were "warm" which is why I thought it would work for my warmth shot, but, ironically, it took a Lightroom effect called Old Polar to make it seem warmer. I think maybe the darkness of the water cools it down a little.

And for the record, there was a very cold ocean breeze blowing at the time.

Sky (March 21, 2016)

I cannot even begin to tell you how many gorgeous skies I have witnessed this year. Unfortunately, the sun waits for no woman to reach her destination and pull out her camera. So after watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean, I turned around and noticed the moon already in the sky with a few pink clouds and I just had to take a couple shots. I didn't even intend this to be one of my Project 52 shots, but I wasn't pleased with the ones I did take post-sunset because the clouds seem blurry. Mainly because I still have problems getting my camera/lens to focus on the sky.

I had the same issue when I was taking some moonshots back in December. I think it has something to do with focusing on infinity. I think there's probably another life lesson in there, but I'm not ready for that one just yet. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Project 52: Shot 9

A Furry Friend's Favorite Activity (February 27, 2016)

This photo was difficult to take mainly because I knew it was the last time I would ever see Moochie eat. Later that day, I took him in to be put down.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life.

He was almost 16 years old and I knew it was time to do this when I saw his appetite had changed. I had slowly noticed other changes as he grew older. Many of the articles I had read online encouraged me to identify some major changes and decide when it was time based on those. I was supposed to figure out what his favorite things to do were and then set some kind of limit like "when he can no longer do X out of Y things." I knew it was time when I noticed he would no longer race downstairs to eat after hearing the automatic feeder start dumping food into the bowl. Between that and some other things he had been doing for a while, I finally accepted that it was time.

Some of you know that I "adopted" Moochie from a little boy in the apartment complex that I lived in back when I was first married. Poor Moochie was dragged from Alta Loma to South Ontario to Rancho, from one side of the city to the other and back again. I credit him with getting me through my separation and divorce. (I "thanked" him for that by getting him a little sister a year later.) I remember he would always keep me company at night no matter where I was or how late I stayed up. It didn't matter if I was grading (and eventually sleeping) on the sofa or working on grad school stuff in my home office--he would be curled up nearby, patiently waiting for me to finish so we could go to bed. I can't even begin to count the nights that I slept on the sofa and he slept right there with me.

Moochie started his life as an outdoor cat and I can only hope that it improved when he met Justin and me. He took care of me when I needed it the most and I can only hope that he felt I had taken care of him in the years after that. I'll eventually get an impression of his pawprint and I know his ashes will be sprinkled in the ocean at Point Loma. My boyfriend showed me photos of how beautiful it is and I'm hopeful that we can go down there so I can shoot some more photos--maybe even another shot for this project. Until then, I guess this is definitely a moment from 2016 that I want to remember, albeit a painful one.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Project 52: Shot 8

A Child--Not Your Own--That is Special to You (February 20, 2016)

I had always told my mom that if I ever had a kid, I would give it to her to raise until it was ready for school at which point I would want it back. When I met my boyfriend a few years ago, his son was in pre-school. This timing did not escape my mother who pointed out that here was someone with a kid who was the perfect age for me. In the time since then, I have gotten to know this child and have witnessed first-hand how smart and sweet he is. I enjoy being around his dad and him (especially when it results in being able to cross an item off my bucket list.) Being in a relationship with someone who has a child has afforded me opportunities like the moment above and allowed me to finally come to terms with my decision to not have any children of my own.

Quite a few people have asked me about that decision. Yes, it was difficult to make at first, but making--and eventually embracing--it has led me to be a whole lot happier than I was before. One of the main factors in my decision was my relationship with my own step-dad. That alone has shown me that blood does not make one a parent. Being a teacher, one can't help but mentally compose a list of all the things one would or wouldn't do with your own kids. Being with someone who has a child has shown me how difficult it is to be a parent. For the record, the mental list still exists, but it's now tempered with the reality of all the day-to-day things that go into raising a child. I am thankful for the time I get to spend with this boy and his father and this photo only captures a small fragment of the happiness they bring me.

I'm starting to realize that this photo project is doing more than giving me a list of shots to take throughout the year: it's allowing me to capture the moments and people that are important to me.

Duh! I should have seen that coming when I first saw the list.

Project 52: Shot 7

At Night (February 19, 2016)

When he's not shooting incredible photos, my cousin Alan plays the drums in a band called Givers and Takers. They usually have shows in the Thousand Oaks or Santa Barbara area so any local (as in the LA area) shows are a rare treat. His band had a show this past Friday night at the Hotel W Loft and I noticed the gorgeous view right away when we finally made it up there. 

I didn't have my tripod so I just used one of the sofas next to the window to steady myself. I wish it had come out a little sharper but this was the best I could do to capture Hollywood Blvd. At night.  

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Project 52: Shot 6

Weather (February 17, 2016)

This shot would not have been possible without the Waze app. It took me down some side streets on my way to the grocery store one afternoon and as I looked up at the mountains, I saw this. I figured it was raining up there and that this could work as my weather shot. I parked, snapped two pictures, and got back in my car. (This is the second photo since the first one was a little overexposed and didn't capture the gloominess.) Not even a minute later, it was raining on those side streets, making me even more glad that I had stopped to get this shot.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Project 52: Shots 2-5

Yes, I took all these shots in one day. Yes, I'm comfortable with that. I am accepting of the fact that I may not be able to take a photo a week and that is okay. There's always next year, right?

Motion (January 30, 2016)

I was hoping this shot would come out a little differently: I was hoping that the middle part would be still and only the spheres around it would be in motion. Either the entire structure moves a little because of the weight (force?) of the ride or sitting on a railing is not as good as using a tripod. 

Foreground (January 30, 2016)

When I took this photo, I was thinking that Walt and Mickey were in the foreground. It turns out that they are the subject of this photo and I don't think I have anything in the foreground. Argh! As upset as I want to be, I am reminding myself that this project is all about learning: learning how to take better photographs and learning how to be nice to myself when I do something "wrong." I still think it's a neat photo though.

Silhouette (January 30, 2016)

I googled silhouette to see if this shot would count before I even took it. (Looking back now, I'm not sure why. It's not like anyone is going to call me out if I do something "wrong.") I wish the photo were sharper but I find that sometimes my camera can't focus correctly on the sky. I bet if I had moved the little square in the viewfinder to be on the trees, it would have come out sharper. Or I could have just changed my lens to be on manual focus and then done it myself. Maybe there's a way to fix it in Lightroom, but I'm not there yet.

Reflection (January 30, 2016)

With this photo, I practiced what I learned in a video on how to use the crop overlay and how to straighten photos. It bugs me that the reflection is crooked, but I tried to straighten the photo so that the building on the dock was level at least. At any rate, with all the changes that are happening to the Rivers of America at Disneyland, I'm glad I got this shot of the Mark Twain.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Project 52: Shot 1

Play (January 22, 2016)

This is the first shot of my Project 52 for 2016. I took it at an MHS girls basketball game. That Cavalier getting ready to start a play is a former student. Not just any student, mind you, but the student who showed me how to play the ukulele which eventually led to this. She was definitely one of my most memorable students during my final year in the classroom and I'm happy that I was able to start this creative challenge by capturing someone who reminded me that any time we start to do something for the first time we're not good at it, but we improve with practice and support.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Project 52 Intro

Back in November I took my second Golden Girls photography workshop. A little after that, the girls started a 12 week photo challenge in their workshop alumni Facebook group. I participated here and there, but found that having photos on a memory card instead of my phone delays their posting. Nonetheless, I was inspired to do my own photo project in 2016!

The first challenge was being able to have access to my camera at all times. I was hoping that if I carried my camera with me EVERYWHERE, I would start to see more photo opportunities and develop my perceptive photographer's eye. For Christmas, I asked for a purse that was designed to both carry a camera and be fashionable. My sisters bought it for me, but the only problem is it ended up being too small to be my everyday purse. I still plan on using it when I travel or go on photo adventures though. (My boyfriend is excited that I don't have to use my camera messenger bag anymore which he's convinced screams "tourist!") [Update: A couple weeks ago, I bought another normal purse that is big enough to hold my camera and the majority of what I usually carry with me. The camera still takes up a lot of space but at least I still have everything else I need.]

The second challenge was to find a project that I actually liked. I figured I wasn't ready for a Project 365 so I decided to start with a Project 52. Many of the ones I found were pretty specific on what to shoot each week, but I didn't like the idea of being locked down to one picture every week. (Looking back now, I understand how that's part of the challenge.) I ended up finding one that simply had 52 different topics. I liked that it was open-ended and that I could work my way through it however I wanted.

[Update: A few months in, I've realized that having so many topics and not one to focus on for that week has made it challenging. I ended up creating a note in Google Keep that has the photo above in it. Then I can access it quickly on my phone and even use the app itself to X out the box for the shots I've taken. 

I try to look it over as often as I can so that I know what shots to look out for as I go about my days. I also set the week numbers to display on my Google Calendars so that I can make sure I'm keeping up. I wish I could say I've taken one a week, but that would be lying. Usually, I end up snapping 3-4 when I'm going somewhere or doing something that will give me the chance to knock out some shots. I need to just choose a shot at the beginning of the week and make it happen.]

No matter what, I'm excited to complete this project and I'm hopeful that I'll develop a little more as a photographer while documenting this upcoming year.