Gracie, Gracie, Gracie

When my oldest daughter, Sydney, got home from her first day of Kindergarten two years ago, all she could talk about was how she made a new best friend named Gracie. For weeks that was pretty much all we heard — Gracie, Gracie, Gracie. Then I was lucky enough to meet the rest of Gracie’s family on back-to-school night. Gail, Gracie’s mom, is kind, funny and has become a dear friend of mine. She is also an amazing mom to four (yes FOUR) kids. She has the kind of family you look at and want to know exactly how they do what they do to raise happy, polite, super-bright and well-adjusted kids. Gail keeps telling me that there is no secret… all I know is they’re doing something right!

I took these pictures of Gracie a while ago — due to technical difficulties (in other words, I was waiting for my 17″ MacBook Pro to arrive) I’m only getting to posting them now. It ended up being a mid-day shoot…. way too sunny, entirely too hot…. in other words, pretty bad conditions for shooting portraits. But with the help of some shady spots we were able to get some really cool shots I think!

I should say, too, that Gracie was so fun to shoot. She has great facial expressions and seemed to enjoy being a model. She did pretty much everything I asked her to do, except lean against anything that might have bugs on it (I don’t blame you, Gracie…).

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The end is near

So today was officially the last day of summer camp for my girls. They weren’t in camps everyday of the summer, mind you…. they attended various half-day camps here and there — soccer camp, vacation bible school, science camp, etc. And when I picked them up today, I could feel it — it was like a chill going down my spine… THE END OF SUMMER IS NEAR (yes, the caps are for dramatic effect).

And as my kids get older, I’m realizing that the end of summer/first day of school transition is incredibly bittersweet. While I have been counting down the days until they were no longer in the house fighting, playing, making messes and complaining, I am now faced with the reality that they aren’t going to be in the house anymore singing, laughing, dancing and creating. This summer where they are 7 and 5 and still in awe of the world around them…. This summer where my oldest daughter happily built an entire Polly Pocket city with her little sister and played with it for weeks… This summer where my youngest tells me she is still “the baby of the family” and that means it’s still okay for her to like baby toys…. It’s almost over.

And so we will be entering back into the world of activities, sports and ridiculous amounts of homework. No more sleeping in, days at the beach, morning movies with popcorn. No more lazy afternoons, impromptu playdates and week-long vacations. It’s back to working and learning for them — and back to time commitments and responsibilities for me.

I should have started out this entire entry by saying that this is my typical M.O. when it comes to my girls going back to school…. I get all weepy and sad. I call my husband after dropping them off the first day to tell him, yet again, how I don’t understand how it all went so quickly. I get very introspective and poetic about the “hands of time” and “living life consciously”. I think about how lucky I am to be a stay-at-home mom so I can be involved in their school and see what their lives are like everyday in the classroom… …. ….

… … … and then day two of dropping them off I am peeling out of the parking lot as fast as I can in the hopes that I won’t get nabbed by a teacher for afternoon language arts center duty.

Bittersweet indeed….

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Janet - August 24, 2009 - 8:18 pm

Well said and so true…at least we can look forward to our mommy chat sessions in the morning šŸ™‚ see you soon

Landscape Photography

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE landscape photography. It’s not that I don’t love portraiture… I do. But there’s something about being outdoors, capturing something that you find beautiful — it makes you feel like you have a place in the world. I think it also has to do with the lighting… at the right time of day, there is nothing more awe-inspiring than natural sunlight shining on you and your subject (which is why I don’t do studio pictures – just not a fan of indoor photography).

And of course, there’s the more obvious reason why landscape is so fun… if I’m trying to get a picture of a flower, I don’t have to beg the flower to stop pouting or to get his finger out of his nose (all you mothers of boys know what I’m talking about!). I don’t have to bribe it with candy, wait for the temper-tantrum to pass or walk it to the bathroom 14 times after it drank half a juice box. I can spend an hour by myself in the breeze waiting for my shot. It’s a kind of meditation without all the strange and disturbing chanting.

I recently took a landscape photography workshop with an AWESOME instructor by the name of Nick Carver (www.nickcarverphotography.com). Nick has also been one of my mentors and teachers… if you live in Southern California I HIGHLY recommend him. Not only is he an unbelievable photographer (his photo was on the cover of Outdoor Photography this past March), he is a truly gifted teacher. Wherever you are in your photography, he can make you better.

This landscape workshop was at Crystal Cove Beach, which is a magnificent place to take pictures. Here are a few of my shots…

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Big Syd:) - August 18, 2009 - 10:49 pm

those pics r soooo pretty!! i love them!!:)

Erin - August 19, 2009 - 7:09 pm

I just got to your sight from Mom*Tog. I love your pictures and am so jelous of your workshop. I wish I could do more landscape but the Texas dry land just isn’t that inspiring! šŸ™‚

Amy - August 28, 2009 - 12:39 am

These are beautiful and calendar worthy and inspiring!

Margaret - December 3, 2009 - 2:06 pm

Jen, I love these Crystal Cove photos…absolutely amazing how you catputed the movement of the water and the light perfectly!

Kylie’s Day!

This was such a fun photo shoot! Kylie is the daughter of my good friend, Nicki. And like her mother, Kylie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. Not only is she unbelievably photogenic, she is an absolute pro in front of the camera. She is only six, but she definitely has a future in front of the camera!

Now if I could just get my own kids to be as agreeable!

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Nicki Swanson - August 15, 2009 - 10:51 am

Jen, you did an AMAZING job with Kylie’s pictures! We absolutely LOVE them!

Sheila Potter - August 17, 2009 - 6:35 pm

Jen – these pictures are beautiful!!

admin - August 17, 2009 - 8:34 pm

Thanks, Sheila!

Big Syd:) - August 18, 2009 - 10:36 pm

omg she is adorable!!! i totally wish i was in front of the lens! lol! u did such a good job!! cant wait to see u!!

love, big syd:)

The changing of the guard

I think I’ve spent more time in camera shops over the last six months than I did at Baby’s R Us before my daughter was born (I think that placeĀ still has my picture up on their bulletin board as the “Biggest Sucker for Plastic Toys in Primary Colors”). Where I live in Orange County, there are quite a few camera shops to say the least. My visits have included everything from picking up prints, renting lenses and making big-ticket purchases.

So here’s the thing… time and time again I am amazed at the arrogance and self-righteousness of the people (read MEN) behind the counter. For example, I had an annoying experience when I went to a local camera shop to buy my latest lens (see entry below). The salesman made absolutelyĀ no attempt to hide his patronizing and disrespectful tone. HeĀ INSULTED my camera body and insinuated that the lens I’m buying is “too much lens” for me. Mind you, this is him knowing nothing about me, the type of photography I do, or my individual style. He basically saw a “young” woman (he was about 75 so Betty White would be about his speed) and he decided that I wasn’t worthy of his respect.

My dilemma, of course, was this… Do I give this asshole my business or do I walk out of there and never come back? Ā Well, because I was so desperate for the lens, I went through with the purchase (but I did sit in my car for about 10 minutes afterwards white-knuckling the steering wheel and going over all of the things I SHOULD have said if that counts for anything). I am STILL pissed at how he treated me. So, here’s the question: If I can find the lens somewhere else, do I return the lens to this store? And if IĀ do return the lens, do I explain why I’m returning it?

I’ve heard from another photographer friend that this is pretty much how the “old guard” at these camera shops operate. I’m not sure if it’s arrogance so much as insecurity. I’m sure these men are starting to hear about how we women have been gaining our independence as of late – we can even vote for the love of Pete! They must be terrified!

I’m hoping that a “new guard” starts to arrive on the scene soon. A new breed of salesperson that understands that photography is both a skill and an art, and like most art it’s subjective. It’s not a bad thing that I don’t enjoy shooting film or that I don’t feel the need to spot-meter everytime I pick up my camera. That’s the beauty of photography — the camera is the photographer’s tool, not unlike the potter with a block of clay. I can get it to reflect my vision… and it’s okay if it’s not the same vision as the guy behind the counter.

Well, I suppose it’s time to step down off of my soapbox. I haven’t yet decided what to do about the lens… I’ll keep you posted.

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DrewB - August 14, 2009 - 4:29 pm

I won’t even shop at Samy’s anymore because of this. No joke. Have not made a purchase there for over a year because they pissed me off so bad. Even wrote an email to the manager and heard nothing. I do all my shopping online at B & H. I of course don’t mind going to Samy’s to waste the salespersons time and check out something in person, but I will not buy a single thing from there.

Big Syd:) - August 18, 2009 - 10:34 pm

Return the lens!!! and if the same guy is there just say: “Thx to u this shop is loosing business!Ur a VERY SUCKISH sales person for treating me the way u did and really a very suckish person for being a rude man!” and if he askes anything more just demand your money and stomp away! i mean u dont have to use my actual words (just giving u some ideas,LOL) but all i demand is that u make a big scene!! im talking a big entrance and a HUGE exit!! LOL cant wait to see u, keep me posted on what u do! lol

love, Big syd:)

Dennis G. Fassett - September 14, 2009 - 8:15 pm

Neither arrogance or insecurity. Unless your salesperson has some demonstrated abilities within the photographic field, he probably just wants to be loved. He also has no knowledge of all those female photographers who might be after his threatened livelihood.

Love ‘ya