Meet Michael: Senior session

It was Hot last Saturday for Michael's senior session. Not just hot... Hot. 101 degrees and humid. Like his older brother said - you sweat just thinking about doing something. But Michael stuck it out like a champ. Just goes to show you how cool he is. Hee hee ho ho! :-)

The weather was no match for us. We had senior photos to take! Very important photos. Once in a lifetime photos, Michael told me. The guy sure knows how to put the pressure on. So we ventured around Swan Lake near Carroll, Iowa for his monumental modeling debut.

I don't know what it is about the men I photograph, but they all make me work really hard to get a good smile. I was pulling out every joke I could come up with, even made fun of myself. And finally it paid off. If Mike knew how handsome he was when he smiled, he'd never stop.

Funny thing is, it sounds like the girls at his high school know. Rumor has it their entire refridgerator is covered with photos of Michael and various girls. Not surprising.

Michael fancies himself a fisherman. Turns out they had to buy a new pole (my husband would correct me with 'rod and reel') for our session because he broke his last one reeling in a massive fish. Or at least that's the tale he told me. ;-)

Thanks so much for putting up with me, Michael! I had a great time. We could have done without the heat... but it was worth it. I can't wait to hear about all the amazing things you're going to at college. In the meantime - enjoy your senior year!


Fuzziness = Aperture

Probably the most frequently asked question I get is, "how do I get the background of my photos to look fuzzy?" Well, that fuzziness is called bokeh. and it's determined by aperture.

I think I've explained how a camera lens works before - but just to recap, a lens functions like your eye. Your eye lids are the equivalent of shutter speed. In bright sun light you blink a lot. Where was in a poorly lit area you might blink really slowly.

And depending upon the amount of light your pupils either dilate (in low light) or contract (in bright areas). To your camera it's called the aperture. The aperture opening is largest at low numbers (1.2) and lets in as much light as possible in low light situations.

Think about when you get your eyes dilated at the eye doctor's. Your vision is blurry for awhile because your pupils are wide open. And when your camera aperture is wide open at the lowest number, you get a fuzzy background - i.e. bokeh.

The best part is, once you get to know your camera you can control what's in focus and what's fuzzy. Let me show you.

In the first photo below, I focused on Allison's eyes. So anything on the same plane as her eyes are in focus (i.e. her face) but everything in front of (i.e. her hand and ring) or behind (the stone wall) that plane are out of focus.

In this photo, I changed my focal point. I focused on her ring. So her hand is in focus, but everything behind it is fuzzy.

The trick is to choose how your camera focuses - often it's a small square. Hold your shutter release button down half way until the camera focuses. While holding the shutter release down half way, you can re-compose the photo. I focused on Allison's ring in the center of my view finder. While holding the shutter release down, I moved my camera up a little to drop her hand to the bottom of the frame. In an attempt to follow the "rule of thirds".
Hmm... perhaps the rule of thirds will be my next informational post!
Happy bokeh. :-)


Brown thumb

I'm the first to admit I don't have a green thumb. I try my best - really, I do. But it just isn't my thing. My mom on the other hand is pure magic when it comes to plants. She's nursed more than one of my failed brown thumb attempts back to health.

Somehow I've managed to keep four or five house plants alive for the past few years. Thankfully most of the landscaping around our house come back year after year so I don't have to worry about them. Course, so do the weeds... but we just ignore those.

The majority of our landscaping are bushes or shrubs. Gus the wonder dog killed all my hostas. I'm still a little bitter. But this... this is my pride and joy.

This clematis was planted in the southern corner of our house when we moved in. While it's the plant I'm most proud of, it's by no means "high maintenance." The poor thing is lucky if I remember to clear away the previous year's dead growth in the spring. What can I say - gardening is not high on my priority list.

I did take pity on it a few weeks ago. It's a climber vine, and it's grown bigger and bigger each year. The poor little trellis it calls home is dwarfed beneath its weight. It's gotten so bad the clematis is reaching out to the privacy fence behind it for additional support. When I noticed it had gotten too big for its britches, I wrapped it around the trellis to give it a good start. And I tied it to the fence to keep it from drooping even more.

I noticed yesterday it had erupted in color. Just goes to show you, give something a little love and it won't go unnoticed. I have NEVER seen this many blooms! It stands about four feet tall and is nothing but flowers from top to bottom. And you can tell by the cones of tightly wound buds, there's a whole new wave to come.

Maybe gardening isn't so bad after all.


Allison and Terry: Engagement

We practically grew up as sisters. My sister and I plus three of our girl cousins who were around the same age. We spent a lot of time together as kids. There were sleep overs and discussions about boys. Promises and pacts.

For the past few years, my cousin Allison has only talked about one boy. Terry, a guy who was on the construction crew of a house she was designing for the owners. It wasn't long before we realized Terry was going to be around for awhile. Last year while on a trip to the Grand Canyon, Terry promised Allison he'd be around forever.

While in Elkader, Iowa for the weekend, I snuck off with Allison and Terry to take a few engagement photos. With an amazing downtown, an old one screen movie theatre, and the BEST bakery in the state of Iowa, Elkader is such a cute little town to take photos around. I wish I could pick it up and move it to the Ames/Des Moines area.

Without further adieu... Allison and Terry.

LOVE these stairs. I'm telling you, I could shoot in Elkader, Iowa for DAYS and not run out of cool places.

Aren't they just too stinkin' cute?

And right after this frame, a giant moth-like thing attacked Allison.

I am so looking forward to their October wedding. Not only because I love this job, but because it's even more special when it's a cousin I love to pieces. Not to mention this girl has ahhh-mazing style (she is an interior designer after all!) and there will be gorgeous details to photograph around every corner!


Allison and Terry: Engagement

Over Memorial Day weekend I snuck in an engagement shoot with my cousin and her fiance. Lovin this teal wall! More to come soon...



I always wanted to be in Girl Scouts. It was a chance to spend time outside and hang out around a camp fire. Looking back I was unofficially in girl scouts my whole life.

My family camped. A lot. At first we tented it. All five of us in the same A-frame. Then we rocked a sweet truck camper, the kind that sits in the bed of a pick-up. Eventually my brother, sister, and I out grew the tiny little bed that converted to the table. So we went back to tents, where we spent pretty much every weekend while we lived at home. Mom and dad upgraded to a nicer camper, but camping wasn't the same without a tent and sleeping bag.

Memorial Day always marked the official start of our camping season. When I was little our entire family started camping together that weekend. I'm talking grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was basically a family reunion, and by far the best camping weekend of the year because we had cousins to play with.

The tradition stuck. The location has occasionally changed to accomodate other events - like graduations and the occasional wedding. But we are always together. I think at one point the aunts and uncles wanted to let it die. But my generation refused. We're a really close family and as cousins we've all grown up looking forward to the annual Memorial Day camp out. So we decided to get together anyway, and our parents didn't really argue.

This year was no different. We tried to figure out how long we've been doing it, and the closest we could come up with is 21 or 22 years. There was a great deal of discussion to get that close. This year the agenda was pretty much the same - canoeing, food, volleyball, food, conversation, s'mores, campfires, and possibly a little singing. It was. a great. weekend.

I'll leave you with a photo I snapped of our campfire, enhanced by christmas lights. The copper wire throws some really amazing colors in a fire. Try it some time... just make sure you're done roasting marshmallows first.