This was so much easier when it was just one baby! (4th Month Portrait)

This was so much easier when it was just one baby!
This was so much easier when it was just one baby!

I wanted to do this earlier – somewhere around 2 month portraits. I was re-energized to try the idea after seeing someone do a photo that made it look like their kid was bounding out of the crib with her stuffed animals. I did not take the Sam and Stella images from some other random image. They were right there where you see them. All I did was erase my body (or I’d be in here thrice). Still, if I were to do it again, I’d have Sam and Stella flying near me rather than against the wall. They end up too small and it lessens the impact of the shot. Well, there’s always next time. (And there’s always less edited shots!)

T-Shirts: The W’s

Welcome to a new set of posts in which I take a look at the t-shirts I’ve accumulated and comment on why I have them and what they mean to me.

A t-shirt from the Christian Swing band The W's.
A t-shirt from the Christian Swing band The W’s. (While the t-shirt, as you’ll read, is from the 1990s, this shot was taken in 2016)

It was the 1990s. I was fully into my Christian revival and the USA was into swing music. I was at a concert to see my new, favorite ska band, Five Iron Frenzy.


I was there with friends from school/Church:

And my girlfriend at the time:


And then this goofy band came on stage, playing SWING MUSIC! The songs were fun and we were all into swing at the time.

(I think)
The W’s

And I ended up buying this t-shirt at the concert. I got both of their albums. Then the swing crazy died away and so did the band. But the concert (which was only my first or second concert in high school) was such a blast, wearing the shirt reminds me of times long past. And every once in a while it’s a conversation piece when another former fan sees it.

Perhaps Selfies aren’t as bad as we think they are?

Whether or not you consider my 365 Project to be a year’s worth of selfies depends largely on whether you believe in the point of 365 projects. But I would say the selfie is more like the pictures you see on Facebook. Like others I viewed them with disdain. Then I came across an interesting article.

I know most people hate selfies. They groan and complain about them, from the duck lips to the filters. Why, just the word “selfie” can induce legendary amounts of eyerolling.

A few adjectives usually associated with selfies are vain, narcissistic, cheesy, and basically anything to do with the superficial. For only someone with an inflated sense of self would waste time taking their own picture.

Here is my issue with that type of mindset. I thought we were supposed to be confident in our own skin. Don’t we encourage each other to be ourselves, and love ourselves. Are we not supposed to celebrate and embrace our flaws, or at least run them through a filter that minimizes them.

That is what the selfie is! It marks a time when someone feels beautiful and self assured. When they are having fun and are not worried about the daily personal problems we all have to face. In a time when feelings of insecurity run high and people shy away, the selfie is an instant of boldness.

I never thought of it that way. A selfie is not (necessarily) an expression of vanity, but someone being OK with how they look for once. And we’re always telling people to ignore the magazine covers and be happy with themselves. So why shouldn’t we support them when they actually do that?

What about you, my readers, does this article persuade you to think about them differently?

Disney Princess Culture Part 3: Transcending the Culture

I forgot what the term was called, but you know how it goes: you learn a new concept and suddenly see examples everywhere. (Or look into buying a new car only to discover that “everyone” is driving it) Once I jumped into the rabbit hole of Disney Princess Culture and our daughters, it seemed to be never-ending. I happened to come across a post in my feed reader in which a photographer was trying to figure out how to photograph her daughter for her 5 year old portraits:

I noticed quite a pattern of so many young girls dressing up as beautiful Disney Princesses, no matter where I looked 95% of the “ideas” were the “How to’s” of  how to dress your little girl like a Disney Princess. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Disney Princesses, from their beautiful dresses, perfect hair, gorgeous voices and  most with ideal love stories in the mix you can’t help but become entranced with the characters. But it got me thinking, they’re just characters, a writers tale of a princess (most before 1998)…an unrealistic fantasy for most girls (Yay Kate Middleton!).
It started me thinking about all the REAL women for my daughter to know about and look up too, REAL women who without ever meeting Emma have changed her life for the better. My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters. I wanted her to know the value of these amazing women who had gone against everything so she can now have everything. We chose 5 women (five amazing and strong women), as it was her 5th birthday but there are thousands of unbelievable women (and girls) who have beat the odds and fought (and still fight) for their equal rights all over the world…… let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses for just a moment, and let’s show our girls the REAL women they can be.

So Jaime posted the five shots in which her daughter imitated the poses of the five chosen women. This photo of her daughter as Coco Chanel was my favorite one.

Jaime Moore's daughter dressed as Coco Chanel. (See the other photos at her website)
Jaime Moore’s daughter dressed as Coco Chanel. (See the other photos at her website)

I love the idea to not only have her study the possible women, but to copy an iconic photo. It seems to push every button: dress up? check! learning about positive female role models? check! pretending to be a model? check! In fact, the only thing that had me bewildered was the fact that this was a thing – this being dressing up for a fifth birthday portrait whether as a Disney Princess or as a female role model. Maybe it’s because we were boys or because my parents didn’t have a lot of money until I was in High School, but our yearly portraits were our school photos.  No one asked me if I wanted to dress up as Aladdin (or whatever cartoons were out when I was five – it all runs together in my mind). Frankly, when it comes to Scarlett I’d prefer for her fifth birthday portraits to be straight portraits. They don’t have to be boring – we can incorporate some of her interests, but the whole dress up thing seems more like a Halloween photo than a portrait. I’d rather remember her in something similar to what she’d normally wear and how she normally looked rather than a manufactured look. Or, to put it another way, I have no problem with playing dress up for photos:

Alice and Mad Hatter Cosplay
Alice and Mad Hatter Cosplay

But when it comes to milestones, I prefer shots like this:

Milestone Self-Portrait
Milestone Self-Portrait

But I am curious – what’s the current trend with most childhood portraits?

5 Tips for a More Successful 365 Project

One of the biggest trends on flickr is to start a 365 Project. This usually means taking one self-portrait a day for an entire year. This project is often misunderstood by those outside of flickr, especially since they’re used to the selfie-culture of MySpace and Facebook. It’s not a vanity project. A 365 Project is about taking the adage about becoming a better writer through writing every day to photography. It also has a special bonus of teaching the photographer what it’s like to be the subject. Many of us photo-geeks are behind the camera way more often than we’re in front of it. Sometimes we struggle with how to communicate to our subjects how to achieve the vision we have in our head. By being both the photographer and the subject, we learn to appreciate both points of view.

Unfortunately, the 365 Project is also the most often abandoned project on flickr. Lots of people start with a lot of energy and can’t make it past a month or two. So I wanted to put together a few tips to help get you through the process.

1. Don’t Worry if It’s Boring

Some people out there have some pretty incredible 365 images. So it can be discouraging when all you can think of is something like this:
Day Two: Protein Shake
Don’t worry about it. Because it’s when you get fixated on how good or bad the photo is that you miss the point. By making sure you participate every day, you don’t fall out of the project.  It’s very hard to be creative every single day. Don’t get hung up on it. Just shoot. Otherwise you can’t get to better photos like this one:
Day One Hundred Forty-One:  Rockin' OutAlso, sometimes the simplest ones can end up becoming your favorites when you go back and visit the images later.  This is one of my favorite simple images and it’s my current profile photo on Steam:
Day One Hundred Thirty-Nine:  There's a new Gameboy out?

2. Use it to learn Equipment or Techniques

One of the best uses I got out of my 365 Project was learning how to work with lighting. I had a lighting kit and built up some backgrounds and then made some images I really loved as I learned the different lighting techniques:
Day Two Hundred Thirty-Three:  Deep Stare
Day Two Hundred Eighty:  Inspiration from Deep Meditation


3. Reenact Famous Scenes

There might be some movies or books that you could try to replicate. I decided to do this with Bible scenes and ended up with one of my most complex images ever, a recreation of The Last Supper:
Day Two Hundred Sixty-Four:  The Last Supper

4. Tell a story or choose a theme

Depending on how good you are on telling stories, you might choose a series of week-long stories or do one story that spans the entire year. I ended my 365 with a story. Here’s the first image and you can follow along on flickr to see how it ends:
Day Three Hundred Fifty-Eight:  Part 1 - Are you Ready to Perform?

Or try out a theme.  One of the most popular is the Seven Deadly Sins.
Day Two Hundred:  Wrath

5. Join a group

One of the ways I was able to keep getting new ideas was to join a few 365 groups. Some of them are generic 365 groups and I could see what others were doing and sometimes that would spur some creativity in me. Other groups are challenge based like Macro Monday or Half-Nekked Thursday. They give you a theme to aim for every day.
Day Two Hundred Seventy-One:  I've Covered Wars, you know!

Hopefully these tips can help keep you motivated. I think completing my 365 was one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve had outside of work and school.  It was hard while I was doing it, but it was great to have finished. In fact, I was so proud of it, that I even had it made into a book. It’s a great documentation of a time in my life when a lot of changes were happening so it’s great for more than one reason and I’d recommend it to everyone who wants to improve their photography.

Top 200 Photos: #116

Reflections and Self-Portraits in today’s Top 200 Photo.

photo #116 is:

Ever since I was young I was fascinated by visual depictions of infinity. It’s such a strange concept to get one’s mind around and I’m a visual person. So I’ve always loved looking into parallel mirrors. I also used to love hooking up a video camera to a TV and then filming the TV. The infinite scene there was so awesome to observe.

Top 200 Photos: #139

No #140 because it was already covered. As I write this, photo #140 has 416 views and photo #121 has 459 views. So they’re still close enough that just one view can cause a photo to jump 3 or more spots up.

photo #139 is:
Reflective Self-Portrait of the Photographer taking a portrait of the model

Another boring night in Maryland. Another cool photo with the wife. I had been reading a book of famous photographers and there was this one guy who took photos of beautiful women, but always framed the shot so that he would be reflected in a mirror. So I decided to go with that. Danielle decided to play with kimonos Dan had brought back from his trip to Japan and put on some makeup so I could take photos. I think my favorite aspect of the photo is her half smile.